Consumer confidence in U.S. decreases to a five-month low

June 26 (Bloomberg) -- Confidence among U.S. consumers declined in June to a five-month low as Americans became less sanguine about the outlook for the labor market and incomes.

The Conference Board’s index dropped for a fourth straight month, to 62 from a revised 64.4 in the prior month, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a reading of 63.

The figures show falling gasoline prices are having limited effect at the same time hiring and income growth cools. The risk of a cutback in consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, helps explain the Federal Reserve’s decision last week to extend a policy aimed at holding down borrowing costs.

“The employment situation continues to weigh on consumer minds,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, who correctly forecast the confidence index. “Usually consumers react to falling gasoline prices by increasing their spending, but this time around it looks like they’re a little bit cautious.”

Estimates for the gauge of sentiment ranged from 58 to 66.8 in the Bloomberg survey of 69 economists. The measure averaged 53.7 during the 18-month recession that ended in June 2009.

Stocks pared gains after the figures, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbing less than 0.1 percent to 1,314.45 at 10:24 a.m. in New York.

Home Prices

Another report today showed home prices in 20 U.S. cities fell at a slower pace in the 12 months ended in April, showing improvement in the industry that precipitated the last recession. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values dropped 1.9 percent from a year earlier, the smallest decrease since November 2010, the group reported in New York.

Today’s Conference Board measure compares with readings from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which dropped last week after a four-week climb. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s preliminary measure fell in June to 74.1, its lowest level this year.

The Conference Board’s gauge of expectations for the next six months fell to 72.3, the lowest level since November, from 77.3 a month earlier. The measure of present conditions climbed to 46.6 from 44.9 a month earlier.

The percent of respondents expecting more jobs to become available in the next six months declined to 14.1, the lowest this year, from 15.4 the previous month. The proportion who expect their incomes to rise over the next six months dropped to 14.8 percent from 15.7 percent.

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