U.S. consumer comfort eases to five-week low on finance views

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WASHINGTON (March 28): A weekly measure of sentiment in America declined to a five-week low as respondents’ views of their personal finances retreated from an 18-year high.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to 60 from 61.5 in the week ended March 24, according to a report Thursday. All three main components dropped, with views on the national economy easing to a five-week low as a measure of the buying climate also cooled.

Key Insights

The report follows mixed readings in other sentiment gauges this month. 

The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index declined for the fourth time in five months on dimmer assessments of present conditions, while the University of Michigan’s index advanced to the highest this year, as expectations improved. 

Though the weekly comfort measure remains near a recent 18-year high, a separate report published last week shows the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort’s monthly gauge of expectations for the economy decreased in March, for a fourth time in five months. 

While Americans may be more upbeat after the stock market recovers much of the ground it lost late last year, gasoline prices have increased steadily to reach the highest since November.

The Federal Reserve may be another reason for optimism, as it signals no more interest-rate hikes for the rest of the year and Chairman Jerome Powell says the economy’s underlying economic fundamentals remain very strong.

Comfort measures fell in all four regions, led by a 2.9 point decline in the Northeast and 2.2 point drop in the South. 

Confidence among part-time workers fell to the lowest level of this year. A gauge for consumers earning more than US$50,000 fell for the first time in five weeks.