Consumer Comfort in U.S. Steadied Last Week on Views of Economy

Consumer confidence in the U.S. stabilized last week as more favorable views on the economy helped make up for a deterioration in attitudes about the buying climate.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index improved to 41.1 in the period ended Aug. 16 from the prior week’s 40.7 reading that was close to the low point of the year. A separate monthly gauge of expectations about the national economy was little changed at 46 in August compared with 45.5.

While the weekly sentiment measure rose, it’s still below the 2015 average of 43.5. Only one of its three components showed an improvement, with the index of Americans’ current views on the economy rising to 34.2, the highest since late June, from 32 the prior week.

The measure of personal finances was little changed at 52.6, matching the lowest level since October, after 52.8. The gauge of the buying climate, showing whether this is a good time to purchase goods and services, eased to 36.5 from 37.1.

The details revealed lingering concern at the lower end of the income scale and waning optimism among Americans putting in less than a full work week. The comfort index among people holding part time positions plunged to the lowest level in almost two years. The reading for those earning less than $50,000 a year was the weakest since November. Sentiment climbed for those making more than $100,000 annually.

The labor market remains strong, though faster wage gains have been elusive. Payrolls climbed by 215,000 in July and the jobless rate held at a seven-year low of 5.3 percent. Average hourly earnings rose 2.1 percent from a year earlier, within the narrow range of the past two years.

Other reports indicate the economy will make headway in the second half of 2015, with improvements in housing and consumer spending. New-home construction surged in July to the highest level in almost eight years. Sales at retailers rose 0.6 percent in July and the prior two months were revised up, according to Commerce Department data issued on Aug. 13.