Americans' Expectations About Economy Stabilized in December

  • Monthly outlook still third-weakest since September 2014
  • Bloomberg's weekly gauge of consumer comfort little changed

Almost one in four Americans said in December that the economy is getting better, helping give expectations a boost for a second month.

A measure tracking the economic outlook rose to 43.5 this month from 42.5 in November, data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Thursday. Nonetheless, the gauge’s average over the last three months of the year is the weakest since the end of 2013, and pessimists have outnumbered optimists for the past eight months.

Bloomberg’s weekly consumer sentiment gauge was little changed at 40.9 in the period ended Dec. 13 after 40.1 the prior week. The slight improvement was paced by more optimistic views of personal finances and shopping.

“It’s not terribly pretty,” said Gary Langer, president of New York-based Langer Research Associates LLC, which compiles the data for Bloomberg. “Americans’ views of their personal finances and the buying climate showed signs of recovery this week from their late-fall downturn, while optimism for the economy’s future halted its year-long decline. Both, though, have far to go.”

The share of respondents in the monthly survey who said the economy was advancing rose to 24 percent in December from 20 percent. Some 37 percent said it was getting worse and 39 percent indicated no change.

Buying Climate

The measure of the buying climate advanced 1.9 points to 37.2 and the personal finances gauge rose 1.5 points to 54.9. The index tracking current views of the economy eased to match the second-lowest level since July.

Confidence improved in two of four regions in the latest week, with attitudes in the Northeast the most upbeat in almost three months. Respondents in the Midwest also were more optimistic, while attitudes for those those in the South and West softened.

The figures also revealed a divergence of outlooks by age group. Confidence among the youngest respondents, ages 18 to 34, were the strongest since June. Among those aged 65 and above, sentiment was the weakest since August 2014. The difference between the two groups was the widest since 2008.

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