American consumers last year were more upbeat on average than at any time since 2001, reflecting more favorable views of the economy, personal finances and the buying climate, according to the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index released Jan. 4.
Highlights of Consumer Comfort for the Week Ended Dec. 30
• Comfort measure averaged 50.0 in 2017, up from 43.6 a year earlier and the best reading since 51.8 in 2001.
• Weekly index eased to 51.8 from 52.4.
• Gauge of national economy cooled to 53.6 last week from 54.1.
• Personal finances measure little changed at 59.4 after 59.6; buying-climate index fell to 42.5 from 43.3.
Sentiment in 2017 got a boost from the combination of a solid labor market that’s pushed unemployment to an almost 17-year low, limited inflation and record stock prices. Such optimism should help keep consumers spending after a bright holiday-shopping season. Retail sales during the year-end holidays may have been the strongest in more than a decade, according to calculations from research firm Customer Growth Partners.
Americans with investments enjoyed a 19% increase in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, the best annual gain since 2013. Optimism about the economy increased as the jobless rate declined and economic growth exceeded 3% annualized rates in the second and third quarters of 2017.
At the same time, the data show a deep divide in sentiment along partisan lines. The comfort gauge climbed 19.9 points among Republicans and 9.7 points among independents in 2017 with President Donald Trump in the White House, compared with a 12.6-point drop among Democrats.
American households were more upbeat last year than at any time since 2001.
• Average comfort gauge of views of the economy was strongest since 2001.
• 2017 average of personal finances measure highest in a decade; average for buying climate measure best since 2000.
• Sentiment among men up 8.7 points in 2017, exceeding 3.9-point gain for women.
• Among age groups, comfort in 2017 rose the most among Americans 65 and over.