• Bloomberg monthly index drops from seven-month high in January
  • Weekly measure of consumer comfort was little changed

Americans’ expectations for the economy declined in February to a three-month low as optimism propelled by job growth and cheaper gasoline at the start of the year faded. 

A monthly measure tracking the economic outlook dropped to 42.5 from a January reading of 47 that was the highest in seven months, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Thursday. The weekly consumer sentiment gauge of present conditions was little changed at 44.3 in the period ended Feb. 14 from 44.5.

"Cautiously positive evaluations of retail sales and declines in weekly jobless claims, but also signs of potential weakness in housing may be contributing to a positive, but ’stay-the-course’-type atmosphere," Gary Langer, president of New York-based Langer Research Associates LLC, which compiles the data for Bloomberg, said in a statement.

The drop in expectations was caused by a sharp decrease in the share saying the economy would improve, which slumped to 24 percent, down 7 percentage points from January. The share believing it would get worse was little changed at 38 percent compared with 37 percent last month. The share saying it would stay the same rose to 37 percent from 32 percent.

Stock Market

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped on Feb. 11 to an almost one-year low on concerns about the global economy. It has since climbed more than 5 percent.

The weekly measure of households’ views of their personal finances eased to 55.8 from 56.1 in the prior week. The gauge tracking current views of the economy was little changed at 35.4, while the buying-climate index cooled to 41.6 from 41.9.

A resilient labor market has kept most employees upbeat. A measure of sentiment among full-time workers reached a 10-month high last week. Confidence among part-timers, however, was the weakest since November.

Sentiment improved among those earning over $50,000, and households making more than
$100,000 a year were the most optimistic in four weeks. Regionally, confidence declined in the Midwest last week and climbed in the other three areas.

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