SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns are feeling particularly upbeat about the local economy, a new survey indicates.
The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index jumped 9.6 points to 115.4 in March, registering 1 point higher than its level from 12 months ago. In comparison, the national Consumer Confidence Index rose 2.2 points from February to March to register at 96.2.
Sparked by, among other things, the spring upswing in the local housing market, increasingly positive perspectives regarding both the present circumstances of the economy and the economy’s future led to this escalation, said Zions Bank economic adviser Randy Shumway.
"The access to mortgages and growth we're seeing in the home market is definitely driving people's confidence," he said speaking at a monthly news conference in Sugar House. "Most people's biggest investment is their home. If they see their home appreciating, their confidence grows.
"Knowing that house prices are going up and (with) mortgage rates being at (such low levels), it makes it very compelling to purchase a home," Shumway said.
Data from the report showed that expectations for the next six months increased 11.5 points in March due to a more positive outlook on business conditions and future job availability, he said.
The Utah Consumer Attitude Index is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households. The monthly survey is conducted by the Cicero Group and has a confidence interval of plus or minus 4.4 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The data collected are compared with both local and U.S. data from previous months to identify key consumer sentiment trends in the state.
The Present Situation Index, the subindex of the overall index that measures how consumers feel about current economic conditions, climbed 6.7 points in the last month and 7.7 points year over year, the report states.
Shumway noted that gas prices have been on the rise in recent weeks, following the seasonal trend of increasing in the spring as gas stations switch out their winter blend with a more heat-friendly, but more costly, summer blend of fuel. Additionally, refineries are also undergoing maintenance to prepare for the summer driving season, he said.
The current average gasoline price in Utah stands at about $1.94 per gallon, while the national average is at $2.04 a gallon. The survey showed that most consumers expect gas prices to continue climbing over the next 12 months.