U.S. consumer comfort falls to seven-month low on finance views

U.S. CONSUMER comfort declined last week to : its lowest level since March, according to Bloomberg. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/VICTOR J. BLUE
U.S. CONSUMER comfort declined last week to its lowest level since March, according to Bloomberg. / BLOOMBERG NEWS FILE PHOTO/VICTOR J. BLUE

WASHINGTON –United States consumer comfort fell to the lowest level since March as ratings of the economy, personal finances and the buying climate all slumped, a potential sign of faltering in the strong support consumers are giving the expansion.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index sank 1.9 points to 59.1 in the week ended Nov. 3, with the personal finances gauge falling to the lowest since January and posting the steepest decline of the three components, figures released Thursday showed. Views on the economy were the dimmest since February while those on the buying climate fell to the weakest level since June.

The overall index has declined 4.3 points in two weeks, the most since 2011, though that follows generally steady readings in recent days on the world’s largest economy. Government data last week showed that the unemployment rate remains near a half-century low and that consumers have held up as the main pillar of economic growth despite the expansion’s pace slowing slightly in the third quarter.

The composition of the report showed that the decline was broad-based. Comfort levels were the lowest in at least a year for respondents in the Midwest, renters, part-time workers and those with annual household incomes under $50,000. The reading for blacks was the lowest since February 2018 even though the unemployment rate for African-Americans is the lowest on record.

Other readings on consumers were mixed last month. The Conference Board’s confidence index slipped to a four-month low, while the University of Michigan’s sentiment gauge rose to a three-month high.

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Thursday’s report showed declines across almost all categories, with comfort for Republicans at a five-month low and a seven-month low for Democrats. Among the few gains were women and homeowners.

William Edwards is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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