U.S. Consumer Comfort Drops on Weaker Views of Personal Finances

  • Household finances measure matches lowest level in four months
  • Confidence falls in South and among Democrats, unemployed

Consumer confidence retreated last week as Americans became less upbeat about their household finances and the state of the economy, the weekly Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index showed Thursday.

Key Points

  • Overall comfort index fell to 42 in week ended May 22, matching the second-lowest level this year, from 42.6 in the prior period
  • Personal finances gauge declined to 55.3, weakest since mid-January, from 56.5
  • State of the economy measure eased to 31.7, the second-lowest this year, from 32.4
  • Buying climate index held at 38.9

Big Picture

As far as American consumers are concerned, it’s about as good as it gets. While employment prospects remain favorable and borrowing costs are low, wage growth has been slow to pick up and gas stations fill-ups are a bit more expensive. The Bloomberg comfort gauge has been stuck in a 2.9 point range the whole year, the narrowest for any January-to-May period in three decades. Those attitudes have been reflected in modest spending numbers. If the economy is going to mount a big second-quarter comeback, it will need a bigger spark from consumers after a weak start to the year.

The Details

  • Sentiment fell in four of seven income brackets, led by a 3-point drop among Americans earning $40,000 to $50,000
  • Households in South most pessimistic since late March
  • Democrats post weakest sentiment reading since mid-January
  • Confidence of unemployed Americans at second-lowest level this year
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