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Low gas prices push consumer confidence to 9-year high

Lower gas prices, here at a Miller Place

Lower gas prices, here at a Miller Place gas station on Feb. 8, 2016, helped stoke consumer confidence, according to a recent survey. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Consumer confidence in the metropolitan region is at its highest level in more than nine years because of declines in the cost of gasoline, according to a recent survey.

The Siena College Research Institute said Wednesday that its Index of Consumer Sentiment was 90.7 points last month for Long Island, New York City and its northern suburbs as gasoline prices continued to fall.

The index was 93.3 in February 2007, months before the region and country fell into recession.

The index was 89.3 points in December 2015, which also was a nearly nine-year high.

Index readings above 76 points indicate the number of residents who are optimistic about their immediate financial future is larger than the number who are pessimistic.

In March 2015, the metro area’s confidence index was 88.7. Siena has conducted surveys four times a year since 2014; previously, they were done monthly.

Siena pollster Doug Lonnstrom said a steep drop in gasoline prices, year over year, has buoyed consumers. He noted the number of metro area residents who said the cost of gas was either a serious or very serious problem last month was 24 percent, a low not seen since at least mid-2008.

“No doubt, consumers’ overall sentiment is buoyed by no longer feeling the pinch at the pump,” Lonnstrom said.

Concern about food prices is also down. The number of metro area residents who said the cost of food was either a serious or very serious problem in March was 61 percent, the lowest since October 2010.

Economists and retailers closely follow confidence indexes because they can indicate whether shoppers are willing to open their wallets. Consumer spending represents about 70 percent of economic activity in the metropolitan area and nationwide.

Siena polled 800 residents statewide from March 7-30. The survey has been conducted for more than 15 years.

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