Press Release

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index Was Minus 48.5 in the
Period to March 13

New York — Consumer confidence plunged last week to the lowest
level since August as rising gasoline prices made Americans more
pessimistic about the economic outlook and their finances.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index dropped to minus 48.5 in the
period to March 13 from minus 44.5 the prior week. Sentiment
fell across most income and age groups and worsened for all
education levels.

Higher gasoline prices persisted for another week, becoming a
bigger concern for Americans already dealing with rising grocery
bills. The report showed confidence among households with annual
incomes exceeding $100,000 fell to the lowest level in November,
posing a risk for consumer spending, the biggest part of the
economy.

For full CCI results, see: http://www.bloomberg.com/cci

“Consumers across different income and demographic groups are
feeling the pain of rising prices at the pump,” said Joseph
Brusuelas
, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. “It’s
even biting those making more than $100,000, and they’re the
ones who’ve been a primary driver of the recovery. It’s likely
to restrain growth this quarter.

The Bloomberg comfort index, which began December 1985, fell to
a record low of minus 54 in November 2008, while the peak of 38
was reached in January 2000. Readings averaged minus 45.7 last
year.

A Labor Department report today showed jobless claims fell for a
third week in the last four. Applications decreased by 16,000 to
385,000 in the week ended March 12. The four-week average of
claims dropped to the lowest level since July 2008.

The latest results for the comfort index reflected worsening
results for all three subcomponents.

A gauge of Americans’ views of the economy fell to minus 80.3
last week, the lowest level since November, from minus 76.8 the
prior week. The share of households with a positive view of the
economy dropped to 10 percent from 12 percent.

The measure of personal finances swung to minus 7.7 last week,
from minus 3.7, the report showed. Forty-six percent of those
polled held positive views on their financial situation, down
from 48 percent the previous week.

An index of the buying climate fell to minus 57.4, the lowest
since October 2009, from minus 53. Those saying it was a good
time to buy needed items plunged to 2 percent from 20 percent
the previous week.

The average price of regular gasoline at the pump climbed
another 5 cents to $3.56 a gallon in the week ended March 13,
according to AAA, the nation’s biggest motoring organization.
That followed a gain of 14 cents the prior week and 20 cents a
week before that.

The report is “showing trouble across the board,” Gary Langer,
president of Langer Research Associates LLC in New York, which
compiles the index for Bloomberg, said in a statement. “While
global disruption from the crisis in Japan to the unrest in the
Middle East can’t help, the most likely proximate cause is the
price of gasoline.”

Today’s report showed the improvement in the labor market is
doing little to lift consumers’ moods. The index for Americans
with full-time jobs fell to minus 35.4 last week, the lowest
level since October, while it worsened for those who were
unemployed.

“Gas prices are going to continue to challenge people,” William
Simon, chief executive officer of U.S. operations for
Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., said on a
conference call with investors on March 10. “As gas prices go
up, it costs more to fill up your tank, and they’re looking for
bargains.”

Gasoline prices and the comfort index have shown a strong
inverse correlation since 2004, according to calculations by
Bloomberg’s Brusuelas. Additionally, changes in the four-week
average of claims for jobless benefits have been in sync with
the comfort gauge about 72 percent of the time.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index is based on responses to
telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,000 consumers
aged 18 and over. Each week, 250 respondents are asked for their
views on the economy, personal finances and buying climate; the
percentage of negative responses is subtracted from the share of
positive views and divided by three. The most recent reading is
based on the average of responses over the previous four weeks.

The comfort index can range from 100, indicating every
participant in the survey had a positive response to all three
components, to minus 100, signaling all views were negative. The
margin of error for the headline reading is 3 percentage points.

The responses are broken down by participants’ sex, age, income
level, race, region of residence, political affiliation, marital
and employment status.

Field work for the index is done by SSRS/Social Science Research
Solutions in Media, Pennsylvania.

Contact for Bloomberg

Meghan Womack, +1 212-617-8514, mwomack4@bloomberg.net