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US consumer comfort climbs even as Republican sentiment slumps

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A gauge of US consumer sentiment improved for the first time in five weeks, though surprisingly without the help of Republicans, whose confidence slipped to the lowest since May 2018 as impeachment hearings got under way on Capitol Hill.

[WASHINGTON] A gauge of US consumer sentiment improved for the first time in five weeks, though surprisingly without the help of Republicans, whose confidence slipped to the lowest since May 2018 as impeachment hearings got under way on Capitol Hill.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to 59.1 the week ended Nov 17 from 58 the prior period, reflecting better assessments of the US economy, personal finances and the buying climate. A separate monthly gauge of economic expectations advanced in November to a four-month high.

From a partisan perspective, the improvement in consumer comfort was due to more optimism among Democrats and political independents, while sentiment among those who vote Republican fell for the fifth straight week. Republicans' confidence has slumped more than 10 points from a record in early September as Democrat-led House impeachment hearings continue.

"What we had seen previously is that there didn't seem to be a partisan nature to the drop in consumer sentiment that we'd been seeing because it had occurred across the board - Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike," Gary Langer, head of Langer Research Associates, which produces the comfort index, said in an interview.

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"It's true that this week it continued among Republicans, while pausing among Democrats and independents, but I think we need to see more data before we can make a conclusion whether there's an impeachment impact or not."

The overall index remains historically high and close to this year's average. The monthly expectations index showed 32 per cent of respondents view the economy as improving, while 30 per cent say it's getting worse.

The weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index and the monthly economic expectations gauge have margins of error of 3.5 points and 4.5 points, respectively.

BLOOMBERG