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Consumer comfort stalls as Americans see mixed economic picture

[WASHINGTON] Consumer attitudes in the U.S. held steady last week as weaker perceptions about the buying climate offset more sanguine views of household balance sheets.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index was unchanged at 41.4 in the period ended Sept 6. The gauge of whether it's a good time to make purchases dropped to a five-week low, while the measure of personal finances rose to the highest since mid-July.

Lasting momentum in the job market is buoying consumers even as they await a pickup in wage growth. Stable attitudes among Americans should keep a floor under the consumer spending that makes up the biggest part of the economy.

The Bloomberg Comfort buying climate measure fell to 35.9, the weakest since the week ended Aug 2, from 36.9 in the prior period. The personal finances gauge improved to 55.1, the best since the week ended July 19, from 54.6. An index on the state of the US economy increased to 33.3 from 32.7.

Attitudes among those 65 and older were the most pessimistic since October 2014, the report showed. The gauge of Americans aged 35 to 44 was the strongest since early May.

Sentiment worsened in two of four regions, with attitudes in the Midwest declining to the lowest level in almost a year and comfort in the West the weakest since November. A gauge of the Northeast jumped to the strongest since March 2007.

Thursday's report follows other measures that have shown differing consumer attitudes. The University of Michigan sentiment index fell to a three-month low in August, while the Conference Board's confidence measure reached its second-highest reading in eight years.

Labor-market improvement is supporting consumer attitudes. The nation's unemployment rate dropped in August to 5.1 percent, the lowest since April 2008. Job openings reached a record high in July, according to Labor Department data going back to 2000.


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