FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Regional consumer opinion regarding the economy improved dramatically from October 2014 to March 2015, according to the Spring 2015 Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey released today.

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The current regional index for Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri – including Greater Kansas City – is 83.2, up from October’s index of 72.6. That number is more closely aligned with the national index, as reported by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, than previous regional indexes. The national index was 85.3 for March, down from 86.9 in October.

Of the three states included in the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, Oklahoma showed the biggest change, with its index jumping from 72.6 in October to 84.8. Arkansas also showed a large gain, from 68.1 to 79.1, while Missouri increased from 77.4 to 85.2, the highest reported index of the three.

“Missouri continues to see job growth, which is strengthening consumers’ attitudes about the economy,” said Dr. David Mitchell, Director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Missouri State University. “When this is combined with low levels of inflation, mostly due to oil prices, one can see why consumers are starting to feel pretty good.”

Kathy Deck, Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) at the University of Arkansas, cited a similar scenario in Arkansas.

“The state’s improving employment and income situation, along with lower gasoline prices at the pump, gave consumers a boost in both perceived current conditions and near-term expectations.”

Kathy Deck

In Oklahoma, Russell Evans, Director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University said consumers shared those near-term expectations, even though the state’s primary industry – oil and natural gas production – adjusted to the reality of lower prices.

“The timing of the survey likely caught households enjoying lower energy costs while not yet experiencing the ramifications of less oil and gas activity on the broader state economy,” Evans said.

These key drivers have resulted in some noticeable trends across the Arvest Bank footprint. “Arvest has seen less total dollar spend in the fuel category,” Arvest Marketing Director Jason Kincy said. “At the same time, we’ve also generally seen deposits rise in our customers’ checking and savings accounts.

“These results are a big part of why we believe consumers are gaining confidence not just in the regional economy, but their personal financial situations, too. Seeing that kind of optimism helps us anticipate and facilitate the financial needs of our banking consumers.”

The Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey is conducted by the CBER in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. The University of Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Learning Laboratory conducted the 1,200 random phone surveys. CBER, Missouri State University and Oklahoma City University provided state data analysis.

The survey is conducted twice a year, with the next survey expected to conclude in October 2015. With each study, the index score will be released first, followed by additional information regarding specifics of consumer outlook for the near future and plans for savings and spending.

Information about the survey, copies of this release, summary documents and print-ready logos can be found at: www.arvestconsumersurvey.com.