Consumer Comfort in U.S. Falls to Lowest Level in Six Weeks

Consumer confidence declined to a six-week low as Americans took a less favorable view of their finances and the slowdowns at factories and oilfields soured attitudes among men.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index fell to 44.7 in the period ended April 26, the third consecutive drop, from 45.4 the prior week. Sentiment among men showed one of the biggest decreases in the past four years, while confidence in the Midwest slumped by the most in more than a decade.

“The CCI’s decline among men was accompanied by softening growth in the traditionally male-dominated manufacturing sector, with export orders declining,” Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates LLC in New York, which produces the data for Bloomberg, said in a statement. “Jobs in manufacturing have languished for two months, with mining down significantly this year.”

The results come on the heels of government data Wednesday that showed the economy came to a near-halt in the first quarter as business investment and exports slumped. Hopes for a strong rebound have also dimmed as the plunge in oil prices may keep depressing energy-related capital spending and hiring, while the stronger dollar will hurt overseas sales of U.S.-made goods.

Gross domestic product rose at a 0.2 percent annualized rate from January through March, after advancing 2.2 percent the prior quarter, according to the Commerce Department. Corporate investment declined the most since the end of 2009. Spending on nonresidential structures including office buildings and plants dropped by the most in four years, reflecting weakness in petroleum exploration.

Last Year

While the Bloomberg comfort gauge cooled from an almost eight-year high reached earlier this month, it remains well above last year’s average of 36.7, which was the best since 2007.

All three components of the index retreated last week. The measure of personal finances fell to a seven-week low of 55.6 from 56 the prior period.

The gauge of Americans’ views on the state of the economy eased to 37.3 from 37.6, while the index of the buying climate, showing whether this is a good time to purchase goods and services, decreased to 41.2 from 42.5.

Sentiment among males deteriorated for a third week, with the gauge declining to 46.7 from 50.3. The 3.6-point drop matched the second-biggest decrease since 2011. In contrast, confidence among women rose, helping to narrow the gender gap.

The report also showed the comfort index fell to an eight-week low of 47.8 among Americans between 35 and 44 years.

Midwest Sentiment

The Midwest was the only region in which sentiment declined last week -- a 7.7 point decrease that was the biggest since February 2004. The area includes the industrial states of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, as well as North Dakota, the second-largest crude-oil producer.

The Bloomberg Comfort Index has been presented on a scale of zero to 100 since May, rather than the previous minus 100 to 100, with the midpoint shifting to 50 from zero. The change is also reflected in the gauge’s components. It doesn’t affect the measures’ relationship to each other or their correlation with other economic indicators. Historical data has been revised and analysis of trends, values and other variables also aren’t affected.

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