WASHINGTON – The share of consumers expecting the economy to worsen fell in February to an almost two-year low as Americans looked beyond harsh winter weather.
Thirty percent, the fewest since May 2012, said the economy was headed in the wrong direction, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Thursday. The gap between positive and negative expectations was minus 3, an eight-month high. The weekly measure was little changed at minus 30.6 for the period ended Feb. 16 from minus 30.7.
Snowstorms and colder temperatures in the eastern U.S. last week that shuttered government offices, stalled highway traffic and canceled flights did little to dismay Americans about the economic outlook. More job and income growth would go further in helping bolster the economy after the weather-related slowdown at the start of the year.
“The deep freeze in sentiment is slowly melting as the economy mends due to steady job growth and a reduced pace of firings,” said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. “This is in contrast with the polar vortex that has blanketed much of the nation and economic activity in early 2014.”
The share of respondents holding downbeat expectations on the economy this month declined from 33 percent in January. Forty-two percent projected little change, compared with 39 percent in January, while 27 percent said the expansion is getting better, down from 28 percent.
The gap between negative and positive responses has narrowed each month since reaching an almost two-year low of minus 31 in October, when lawmakers’ failure to agree on a budget resulted in a 16-day partial federal shutdown.
Other reports on Thursday showed fewer Americans filed claims for unemployment benefits last week, the cost of living rose at a slower pace in January and a manufacturing gauge jumped this month.