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Consumer comfort in US holds in narrow range for eighth week

[WASHINGTON] Consumer sentiment in the US remained stable last week and close to a three-month high, helped in part by upbeat views of buying conditions.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index was little changed at 44.2 in the period ended Feb 21 compared with 44.3 the prior week. The measure has stayed within a 0.6-point range for the last eight weeks, the narrowest for any comparable period since the second quarter of 2013. The top of the span was in late January, when it rose to 44.6, the highest since October.

The figures show cheaper gasoline and job security as employers continue to take on more workers are buoying spirits. A pickup in confidence has been thwarted by turmoil in financial markets, concerns about the effects of weaker global markets on the US economy and a gradual increase in core inflation.

"The lack of forward momentum reflects consumer wariness," said Gary Langer, president of the New York-based Langer Research Associates LLC, which produces the data for Bloomberg. "Prices outside of energy and food may be a concern even as consumer spending rises."

The comfort measure is at odds with Tuesday's Conference Board's report, which showed confidence declined to a seven- month low in February on concerns about the outlook for the economy and employment.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort figures showed optimism among full-time workers eased last week from the highest level since April. At the same time, those working part-time were the most pessimistic since the end of September.

All the index's components - measures tracking whether Americans think it's a good time to purchase goods and services, attitudes about personal finances and views on the current state of the economy - also were little changed last week.