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What Questions Does the University of Michigan Survey of U.S. Consumers Ask?

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Every month financial markets wait for the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment to get a sense of what consumers are feeling. Most recently, this past Friday, a Bloomberg headline scrolled across screens telling a simple message: Consumer Sentiment Index in U.S. Increased in August.  "Confidence among U.S. consumers rose in August, a sign the biggest part of the economy may soon stabilize," the article said.

Fair enough. This preliminary release surveys 300 consumers, compared to the final survey which tracks responses from 500. Heh. That's quite a bit of pressure for those 500 households. After all, stock prices are riding on this consumer confidence data, or so we are told. For God's sake, don't mess up the survey!

Okay, so we have some questions. What exactly does this index purportedly measure? And what questions does it ask?

Well, take a look at the actual survey, the questions that are asked of these 500 people, and see for yourself.

A sample question with flow chart:

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.