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November 8, 2018 11:15 AM, EST

Consumers Were Upbeat on Economy Leading Up to Elections

Two women shop at a retail store Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times

Americans’ sentiment rose in the week leading up to the midterm congressional elections as gauges of views on the economy and household finances each jumped to 17-year highs, the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Nov. 8.

The comfort index increased by 1 point to 61.3 in the week ended Nov. 4, while a measure tracking current views of the economy rose to 66.9, the highest since January 2001. The main survey result was the highest leading into a midterm election in available records, according to the report.

The political divide remained wide before the elections: Republicans’ sentiment exceeded that of Democrats by 27.9 points. The Democrats on Nov. 6 gained control of the House of Representatives while the GOP preserved its Senate majority.

The gauge of personal finances advanced to 67, the strongest since February 2001, from 64.1. The jump occurred even as the S&P 500 stock index in October posted its worst monthly plunge since 2011.

An index of the buying climate fell to 50.1, the lowest since August and the third straight drop, from 51 in the previous week. The deterioration may reflect higher borrowing costs and concern that the trade war with China will lift prices on household goods. At the same time, the strong job market has been supporting consumer spending.

The comfort gauge for Americans 65 and older fell to a four-week low and also decreased for black respondents while rising for whites.

Sentiment declined among people making more than $100,000 a year, a group that typically invests more in the stock market, amid the rout in U.S. shares in October.