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Banking Consumer comfort increased last week by most since April

Consumer comfort increased last week by most since April

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WASHINGTON — Consumer confidence rose last week by the most since the beginning of April as Americans’ views of the buying climate and their finances improved.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index increased to 42.6 in the period ended June 21 after climbing to 40.9 the prior week. The turnaround follows an almost 8 point drop since reaching an eight-year high in mid-April.

“Motoring in tandem with gasoline prices, consumer sentiment moved in the right direction after a two-month downturn, boosted by better ratings of finances and, particularly, the buying climate,” Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates LLC in New York, which produces the data for Bloomberg, said in a statement.

Prices at the gas pump are leveling off after advancing about 40 cents a gallon since early April, contributing to the biggest one-week improvement in buying attitudes in more than two years. A stronger labor market and rising home prices are making households more upbeat about their finances and the economy.

The comfort index’s buying climate gauge, which measures whether now is a good time to purchase goods and services, increased to 37 this week from 34.2, the biggest gain since April 2013.

Part of the reason for the increase can be found at service stations, where the nationwide average price of a gallon of gasoline is stabilizing around $2.80, based on data from the auto group AAA.

The gauge of personal finances rose to 56.4, the highest since mid-April, from 54.8. A measure of consumers’ views on the current state of the economy advanced to 34.3 from 33.7 the prior week.

Confidence among homeowners was particularly strong, with that measure increasing by the most since January. The housing market is gaining momentum, with purchases of new properties in May rising to the highest level in seven years.

Near-record stock prices are making wealthier Americans more upbeat. Comfort among those earning more than $100,000 a year increased 3.9 points in the latest period after a 4.9 point gain — the biggest two-week jump since 2010.

Sentiment improved in five of seven major income groups last week while better job prospects led to more sanguine attitudes among the employed and unemployed alike. Confidence of respondents looking for work climbed to a six-week high.

Employers in May added jobs at the fastest pace in five months, while a record number of help-wanted signs in April pushed job openings above hires for the first time ever, according to two Labor Department reports.

By region, comfort climbed in the Northeast by the most since Feb. 8, and rose for a fourth week in the South. Sentiment in the Midwest registered the biggest gain since the end of March.

The Bloomberg Comfort Index, presented on a scale of zero to 100, is a four-week rolling average and based on a national sample of 1,000 adults. The report’s gauges have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 points.

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