Declining Gas Prices Boost Consumer Optimism

Falling prices following the recent hurricanes have made Americans more buoyant about the economy

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Consumers say the falling gas prices following hurricanes Harvey and Irma have made them more optimistic about the economy, according to the latest NACS Consumer Fuels Report.

Americans said they’ve seen gas prices drop 9 cents to $2.50 per gallon in the past 30 days, and 24% of consumers expect gas prices to continually dip this month—a dramatic increase from last October's 11%. This sentiment is prevalent among Southern consumers, who were hit hardest by the storms. Per the survey, 34% of them said they believe prices will fall in the next month.

Lower gas prices have boosted consumers’ economic optimism, which grew from 54% to 61% in the past month—the highest since March 2017. Economic optimism is strongest in the South (64%) and Northeast (64%) and slightly weaker in the Midwest (59%) and West (58%). Additionally, men (68%) are notably more optimistic than women (56%).

A whopping 76% of patrons—the majority being young consumers—said gas prices affect their feelings toward the economy. Roughly nine in 10 Americans (87%) ages 18 to 34 said gas prices affect their economic confidence. Furthermore, decreased gas prices also affect spending: Thirty-seven percent of young consumers say they’ll drive more this month, while 24% say they will spend more this month vs. last month.

“Sales at convenience stores are directly tied to the economy, fuel prices and the weather,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for NACS, Alexandria, Va. “The return of consumer confidence is great news as we start the fourth quarter of 2017.”

The survey was conducted online by Penn Schoen Berland; 1,103 U.S. adults who purchase fuel for a vehicle such as a car, truck or van at least once per month were surveyed Oct. 3-6, 2017. Summary results are available at nacsonline.com/fuelssurvey.

NACS is working with the American Red Cross to help collect donations for areas hit by the hurricanes. The association has also developed resources to assist retailers and others with disaster recovery and relief.

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