[WASHINGTON] Consumer comfort declined last week to a three-month low as Americans' attitudes about the economy and their financial prospects deteriorated.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index dropped to 42.8 during the period ended March 26 from 43.6 the prior week. The decline, the biggest since the end of November, marks a departure from a 13-week period in which the gauge see-sawed in tight range from 43.6 to 44.6.
"Consumer caution the past few weeks is unsurprising," Gary Langer, president of New York-based Langer Research Associates LLC, which compiles the data for Bloomberg, said in a statement. "While strong employment numbers and tentative signs of improvement in a weak housing market are positives, wages remain mostly stagnant and consumer spending has underperformed." The weekly measure of current views of the economy dropped to 32.6, the lowest level since December, from 34. The gauge tracking households' views of their personal finances declined by 1 point to 57.6, while the buying-climate index was unchanged.
The data also showed sentiment is diverging among the political parties as the presidential campaign heats up. Republicans' confidence dropped last week to the lowest level since the end of November, while sentiment among Democrats held up after steadily rising from a more than one-year low in December.
The partisan comfort gap widened for a third week, climbing to 11.6 points and the largest differential since February 2015.
The comfort report also showed sentiment fell among those making less than $50,000 a year as higher gasoline prices weighed on attitudes.
Confidence among those without a job decreased to a three- month low, while regionally sentiment declined by the most in the West.