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Consumer comfort in US little changed near three-month high
[WASHINGTON] Consumer confidence cooled in the final week of January as American households tempered their views about the economy and their finances.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index eased to 44.2 in the period ended Jan. 31 from a three-month high of 44.6. Last week marked just the second decline since the end of November for the sentiment gauge, which is holding above the 2015 average.
The fewest respondents in a month said the economy was getting better, while a drop in stock prices led to dimmer views of personal finances. At the same time, the gauge of the buying climate improved as gasoline prices dropped to a seven-year low.
"We are not seeing an improvement, but we are not seeing any deterioration, which is positive given the conditions we are seeing," said Gary Langer, president of New York-based Langer Research Associates LLC, which compiles the data for Bloomberg. "Consumers are somewhat cautious in their outlook." The January jobs report on Friday may provide some reassurance. Sustained employment growth that's accompanied by more wage growth would help brighten attitudes toward spending.
Economy Views Some 64 percent of respondents, the highest share in four weeks, had negative views about the economy, according to the weekly gauge. The overall measure tracking current views of the economy dropped to 36.5, the lowest this year, from 37.2.
The buying-climate gauge rose to 40.6 last week, matching the highest level since April, from 40.2 in the prior period. A weekly measure of personal finances dropped to 55.5 from 56.3.
Confidence among those 45 to 54 rose to the highest since September 2007. Sentiment worsened for Americans earning over US$50,000, perhaps shaken by the turmoil in financial markets.
Comfort improved in two of four regions, with those in the South the most optimistic since November. While confidence fell the most in the Midwest last week, the gauge of sentiment in the region was higher than it was in any other US area.