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[WASHINGTON] Almost a third of Americans said in January that the economy was improving, helping to boost expectations to a seven-month high even as sentiment around current conditions withered.
A measure tracking the economic outlook climbed to 47 this month, the highest since June, from 43.5 in December, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Thursday. Bloomberg's weekly consumer sentiment gauge eased to 44 in the period ended Jan 17 after a 44.4 reading the prior week that was the strongest since October.
After six consecutive gains, the drop in the weekly reading "coincides with a range of economic challenges, including global market turmoil, upward pressure on initial jobless claims, disappointing retail sales numbers and sliding industrial production," said Gary Langer, president of New York-based Langer Research Associates LLC, which compiles the data for Bloomberg.
Even with an improvement in the monthly gauge, pessimists outnumbered optimists for a ninth straight month. Thirty-one per cent said the economy was improving, up from 24 per cent in December, while 37 per cent said it was getting worse, unchanged from a month earlier.
The weekly measure of households' views of their personal finances fell to 55 from 55.9 in the prior week. The index tracking current views of the economy dipped to 37.7 from 38, and the buying-climate gauge was little changed at 39.2 from 39.4.
The figures showed a yawning divergence between upper- and lower-income respondents, with the gap between the two groups holding at its widest in eight months. Those making more than US$100,000 a year were the most upbeat since May, while sentiment among those earning less than US$50,000 was little changed.
Confidence improved among 18 to 34 year olds, and women were more upbeat than at any time in 14 weeks. Sentiment declined last week in three of four regions, while those in the Midwest were the most optimistic since March.