Gas Prices, Consumer Economic Optimism Both Down: NACS

But percentage who say they'll drive more highest since survey began

Published in CSP Daily News

National Association of Convenience Stores NACS gas prices (CSP Daily News / Gas Stations)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Despite souring views on the economy, consumers still intend to keep their plans to hit the road this summer. More than one in five (22%) consumers, including 40% of 18-34 year-olds, say they will drive more over the next 30 days, according the latest monthly NACS Consumer Fuels Survey that examines how gasoline prices affect consumer sentiment.

The percentage of consumers who say that they will drive more over the coming 30 days is the highest measured since NACS initiated the survey in Jan. 2013 and is a full five percentage points higher than in June 2013.

Overall, 39% of consumers say that they are optimistic about the economy, a drop from 44% just two months prior, and despite falling gas prices and better weather across much of the country, consumer optimism is at its lowest level in 2014. Consumers ages 35 to 49 were the most optimistic, bucking a trend in which younger consumers, ages 18 to 34, have been the most optimistic.

"Consumers aren't letting their concerns about the economy affect their summer travel plans," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "But while they will be travelling more this summer, it remains to be seen for businesses whether they will be spending more or if they will be more budget conscious."

Nearly nine in 10 (88%) consumers say that gas prices affect their feelings about the economy, but gas prices have decreased nearly two cents per gallon over the past month.

In addition to declining gas prices, consumers also are reporting that their vehicles are more fuel efficient. Consumers say their purchasing power at the pump is better. Self-reported miles per dollar, which examines both prices and efficiency, increased 4.9% in June to 6.63 miles per dollar.

The National Association of Convenience Stores conducts a monthly nationwide survey in partnership with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates LLC to measure consumer perceptions about gas prices and how they relate to broader economic conditions; it surveyed 1,110 gas consumers online between June 2 and June 4, when the OPIS weekly national average price for gas was $3.664.