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Business
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Title: Consumer Comfort in U.S. Advanced for a Sixth Consecutive Week
Source: Bloomberg
URL Source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012- ... -a-sixth-consecutive-week.html
Published: Oct 4, 2012
Author: Elizabeth Dexheimer
Post Date: 2012-10-04 11:00:56 by Brian S
Keywords: None
Views: 495

Consumer confidence in the U.S. climbed for a sixth straight week, the longest upswing since the end of 2005 into early 2006, as Americans grew more secure about their finances.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose in the week ended Sept. 30 to minus 36.9, a three-month high, from minus 39.6 in the previous period. The pickup also included less pessimism among households in their views on the buying climate and the economy.

“Americans are feeling a bit more optimistic given the strong increase in equity prices, the modest bounce in home prices and the paring down of debt,” said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York.

Fifty percent of those surveyed had “positive” views of their finances, the most since July and a sign consumers will maintain their pace of spending. Higher home values, rising stocks and stable gasoline prices may be alleviating some of the anxiety caused by a labor market that’s shown scant improvement.

A separate report today showed more Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week. Jobless claims climbed by 4,000 to 367,000 in the week ended Sept. 29, according to the Labor Department.

Stocks held gains after the report. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.4 percent to 1,456.92 at 9:34 a.m. in New York. The S&P 500 reached a four-year high on Sept. 13.

Three Components

All three of the comfort index’s components improved. The barometer of the state of the economy rose to minus 68.7 from minus 70.3 the previous week. The index measuring Americans’ views on their personal finances rose to minus 0.4, the highest since the end of July, from minus 3.6. Americans’ views on the buying climate improved to minus 41.4 from minus 44.8 the previous week.

“While the trend is improving, challenges remain,” said Gary Langer, president of New-York based Langer Research Associates, which compiles the index for Bloomberg. Eighty-four percent of Americans rate the economy negatively and 71 percent said they think it is a bad time to buy things they want and need.

The consumer comfort gauge averaged minus 41.6 in the third quarter, weaker than the first two quarters. Still, the average is better than any period from the second quarter of 2008 through the fourth quarter of 2011.

“We’re finally seeing an uptick in consumer sentiment, consumer confidence,” Kurt McNeil, vice president of U.S. sales operations at General Motors Co. (GM), said on a sales conference call on Oct. 2. The company reported on Oct. 2 that its U.S. sales rose 1.5 percent in September from a year earlier.

Other Measures

Today’s report is in line with other confidence indicators. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan final sentiment index reached a four-month high in September. The Conference Board reported Sept. 25 that its confidence gauge rose to a seven- month high.

The Bloomberg survey showed Americans making more than $100,000 became confident in the economy for the first time in two months, climbing to 6.3 from minus 1.7.

Confidence improved in all regions except the Midwest, and optimism among American women and renters rose to the highest level since April.

With the presidential election one month away, advances in sentiment over the past few weeks have been bipartisan. Confidence among Republicans climbed to minus 34, the highest since April, from minus 42.2 the prior week. The index among Democrats advanced to minus 25.9 from minus 30.1.

Independents’ Views

Independents were the most bleak, with sentiment falling to minus 44.5 from minus 43.6.

Signs of recovery in the housing market may be bolstering confidence. Home prices in 20 U.S. cities climbed more than forecast in July from the previous year, according to S&P/Case- Shiller figures.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, compiled by Langer Research Associates in New York, conducts telephone surveys with a random sample of 1,000 consumers 18 and older. Each week, 250 respondents are asked for their views on the economy, personal finances and buying climate; the percentage of negative responses is subtracted from the share of positive views and divided by three. The most recent reading is based on the average of responses over the previous four weeks.

The comfort index can range from 100, indicating every participant in the survey had a positive response to all three components, to minus 100, signaling all views were negative. The margin of error for the headline reading is 3 percentage points. Subscribe to *Elections 2012*

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