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2/25/2016 9:40:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Consumer Comfort Holds in Narrow Range for Eighth Week

Michael Newman/Flickr

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

The Bloomberg News 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 past 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 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 U.S. economy and a gradual increase in core inflation.

"The lack of forward momentum reflects consumer wariness," said Gary Langer, president of  New York-based Langer Research Associates, 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 a Feb. 23 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 index 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 is a good time to purchase goods and services, attitudes about personal finances and views on the state of the economy — also were little changed last week.

By Tatiana Darie
Bloomberg News

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