Consumer Comfort Reaches 16-Year High on Economic Optimism

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Americans last week registered their strongest optimism in 16 years on more upbeat views about the state of the economy, their personal finances and the buying atmosphere, according to Bloomberg News Consumer Comfort data released Aug. 10.

Highlights of Consumer Comfort for the Week Ended Aug. 6

• Weekly consumer comfort measure jumped to 51.4, highest since week ended Aug. 19, 2001, from 49.6.

• Index of current views on the economy rose to 51, also a 16-year high, from 48.6.

• Personal finances gauge increased to an eight-week high of 58.9 from 58.

• Measure of buying climate climbed to 44.3, highest since week ended June 11, from 42.2.

Key Takeaways

Consumers had reason to feel upbeat last week with stocks again reaching all-time highs and as the Aug. 4 report on July employment confirmed the strong labor market remains intact.

Record-high job vacancies help explain why lower-income Americans and the unemployed are more positive about their prospects. The latter group hasn’t been this optimistic since before the last recession.

While the robust job market is offsetting the disappointment tied to lack of progress in Washington on health care and tax reform, geopolitical tensions related to North Korea represent a risk to consumer optimism.

Other Details

• Among those making less than $50,000 a year, comfort index rose by 1 point to 37.9, the strongest in records for that group dating to December 2010.

• Sentiment among the unemployed climbed to 43.6, highest in a decade, from 40.9.

• Among renters, comfort increased to 43.2, the strongest since May 2007, from 42.2.

• All four regions advanced, with sentiment in the South at its strongest since early April and comfort in the West at its highest since February.