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Consumer comfort in US declines for fifth week on finances

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Consumer confidence declined for a fifth consecutive week as Americans grew less upbeat about their finances and whether it was a good time to shop.

[WASHINGTON] Consumer confidence declined for a fifth consecutive week as Americans grew less upbeat about their finances and whether it was a good time to shop.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index eased to 40.3 in the period ended Aug 2, the second-worst reading since November, from 40.5 the prior week.

While views of the economy improved, the measure of household finances dropped to the weakest level since October and attitudes about the buying climate reached a seven-week low. Scant signs of faster wage growth combined with less enthusiasm about shopping represent risks to consumer spending after a pickup in the second quarter.

The personal finances gauge declined to 52.6 from 54.9 in the previous week. A 5.2-point drop in the past two weeks has occurred just 13 times in data back to 1985. A measure of the buying climate, which shows whether it's a good time to spend, fell to 35.5 from 36.2 in the prior period.

A gauge of Americans' views on the state of the economy climbed to 32.7 from a 30.4 reading in the previous week that was the lowest since November.

Sentiment among lower-income individuals contrasted with those at the top end last week, the report showed.

The index among those making less than $15,000 a year fell to an almost three-month low. For Americans making more than US$100,000, confidence improved for the first time in five weeks.

Three of four regions showed a drop in sentiment in the latest period. Confidence in the Midwest was the weakest since November.

Sentiment among Hispanic respondents dropped to the lowest level in almost nine months, while unemployed Americans were the most pessimistic since the first week of June.

A plunge in gasoline prices that provided a lift to consumers earlier this year is fading, and sluggish gains in wages are failing to fill in the gap. A gain in average hourly earnings in June matched the average for the six-year expansion.

Thursday's consumer comfort data corroborates the Conference Board's measure of confidence, which dropped in July by the most in almost four years and indicated less enthusiasm for the economic outlook, employment and finances.

BLOOMBERG