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December 19, 2019 11:00 AM, EST

Jobs, Stocks Boost Consumers’ Outlook on Economy

ConsumersShoppers at the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, N.J. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News)

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American consumers are more upbeat about the economy than at any time in more than a year against a backdrop of steady job gains and record stock prices.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index’s monthly expectations gauge advanced to 56.5 in December, the highest since October 2018, from 51.5 as a greater share of respondents said the economy was getting better, according to the Dec. 3-15 survey released Dec. 19. The weekly measure of consumer comfort, however, eased from a seven-week high.

Brighter expectations for the economy emerged in the same month that the government reported a November payrolls gain that was the strongest since the beginning of the year. Resilient job growth, which has helped push the unemployment rate to its lowest in five decades, is generating moderate wage gains at the same time stock market averages make new all-time highs.

While recent retail-sales data showed less momentum heading into the holiday-shopping season after two solid quarters for household purchases, a steadfast labor market, income growth and more optimism about the economy will help buttress demand. The gauge of consumer expectations has increased 7.5 points in the past two months, the most since January-February of last year.

The weekly consumer comfort index cooled 1 point to 61.1 in the week ended Dec. 15, marking the first decline since Nov. 10. The subindexes measuring personal finances, the buying climate and the current state of the economy all eased.

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