The Business Times

Consumer comfort little changed as US buying climate weakens

Published Thu, Mar 12, 2015 · 02:10 PM
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[WASHINGTON] Consumer confidence was little changed last week at the second-lowest level of the year as fewer Americans said it was a good time to shop.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index retreated to 43.3 in the period ended March 8 from 43.5 in the prior week. A measure of the buying climate in the US was the weakest in a month.

Disappointing wage growth and a propensity to sock away gas savings may be limiting consumers' willingness to spend, while a drop in stock prices damped enthusiasm among wealthier households. At the same time, healthy job growth will probably keep sentiment from faltering.

"Weak wage growth may be a factor, while employment pulls in the positive direction," said Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates LLC in New York, which produces the data for Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg measure has averaged 44.5 so far this year, up from a 36.7 average in 2014. The gauge stood at 40 in the final week of December 2007, the month that marked the beginning of the last recession.

An index of the buying climate dropped to 38.2 last week from a reading of 39.3 in the prior period, while a measure of the state of the economy held at 37.1. The personal finances gauge rose to a three-week high of 54.8 from 54.1.

Sentiment among women last week was the strongest since August 2007, and confidence of 35- to 44-year-olds was the highest since October 2007.

Comfort among respondents in the two-highest income groups declined last week as the Standard & Poor's 500 dropped to its lowest level in almost a month. Those making US$100,000 or more a year were the most downbeat since November.

Sentiment picked up for Americans making less than US$15,000 a year.

The Bloomberg Comfort Index has been presented on a scale of zero to 100 since May 2014, rather than the previous minus 100 to 100, with the midpoint shifting to 50 from zero. The change is also reflected in the gauge's components.


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