• Weekly index is hovering close to this year's average
  • Gauge of consumer buying climate climbed to a two-month high

Consumer confidence rebounded last week as Americans felt more comfortable about their finances and considered it the best time to buy goods and services in two months.

The weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index advanced to 43.4 in the period ended April 24 from 42.9. The improvement left the gauge close to the 2016 average of 43.8. The comfort measure has held in a 2-point range since the start of this year, the longest such streak since 2003.

“This level of stability is highly unusual” especially after last year’s “roller-coaster of peaks and valleys,” Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates LLC, which produces the comfort data for Bloomberg, said in a statement. “Employment is holding strong,” and “flat incomes, though, are a persistent challenge.”

A solid job market and low inflation and borrowing costs support household spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy. Even so, wages remain sluggish and election-year politics help explain why most consumer-confidence gauges are struggling to gain momentum.

Other Gauges

The University of Michigan’s preliminary sentiment index for April fell to a seven-month low. The Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence decreased more than forecast, with a measure of expectations falling to the weakest point in more than two years.

The latest Bloomberg comfort survey results showed two components of the index improved, while one was little changed. The measure of the buying climate, showing whether this is a good time to purchase goods and services, rose to 40, the highest level since the week ended Feb. 21.

The report’s gauge of personal finances climbed to 56.8 from 55.6, the first increase in five weeks. The index of views on the economy was little changed at 33.5 after 33.4. 

Sentiment among people earning over $100,000 declined for a third consecutive week, reaching the second-lowest level this year. By contrast, confidence among those with annual incomes below $15,000 was the strongest in more than three months.

Among other details, the comfort measure fell for a second week among full-time workers and declined for part-timers to the lowest level since September. Confidence among Republicans rose for a third straight week, to the highest since early last month. The comfort gauge for Democrats was the strongest since mid-March.

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