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US Consumer comfort climbs to highest level since April

[WASHINGTON] Consumer confidence climbed for a third week to reach its highest level since mid-April as Americans held more favorable views of the economy, buying climate and personal finances.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index improved to 44.8 in the period ended Oct 4, pushing above this year's average, from 43. The measure has advanced 4.6 points over the last three weeks, the biggest gain for any comparable period since May 2009.

The recovery in confidence from a mid-year setback indicates households may be looking past unsteady global markets. Resilient consumer spending shows Americans are leveraging increased purchasing power from persistently low energy prices and a firming job market.

The data "are consistent with strong consumer spending, including solid growth in retail and car sales," Gary Langer, president of New York-based Langer Research Associates, which conducts the survey for Bloomberg, said in a statement. "That spending pushes against headwinds including weak manufacturing data, a disappointing jobs report and continued global economic uncertainty." The Bloomberg buying-climate index, which measures whether consumers think it is a good time to purchase goods and services, advanced to 39.6 from the 38.4. The reading is the highest since May.

A measure of Americans' views of their finances increased to 59.3, matching the best reading since April, from 57.4 the week prior. Attitudes about the national economy advanced to 35.4, the highest since the first week of May, from 33.2.

Increased optimism about the buying climate coincides with stronger auto sales. Purchases of motor vehicles in September climbed to an annualized rate of 18.1 million, the best performance since May 2005, based on data from Ward's Automotive Group.

The increase in sentiment last week was broad-based. Households earning less than US$50,000 were the most upbeat since mid-April, while confidence among those earning more than US$100,000 was the highest in three months.

BLOOMBERG