Consumer confidence in U.S. increases to almost two-month high

Households less pessimistic about state of finances

Two of the Bloomberg weekly gauge’s three components improved last week. The gauge of personal finances advanced to 0.1, the first positive reading in almost two months, from minus 2.1 the week prior. A measure of Americans’ views of current economic conditions increased to minus 62.5 from minus 63.7 the previous period.

The buying-climate index slipped to minus 38.7 from minus 38.2 as fewer Americans responded that now is a good time to make purchases. The decline may have stemmed from a resurgence in fuel costs, weighing on household budgets. A gallon of regular gasoline climbed to $3.29 on Nov. 25, the highest in a month, according to AAA, the largest U.S. motoring group.

Labor market

At the same time, improvements in the labor market are helping underpin confidence. The number of job openings in September rose to a more than five-year high, according to Labor Department figures released last week. Payroll gains have averaged 186,300 a month so far this year, up from 182,750 in 2012.

Rising home prices are also propping up balance sheets for some Americans, leaving them with greater means to spend. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 U.S. cities gained 13.3 percent in September from a year earlier, the most since 2006, a report showed this week. Prices nationwide jumped 11.2 percent in the third quarter compared with the same period in 2012, the report said.

Today’s comfort figures showed attitudes diverged further between homeowners and renters. The confidence reading for home- owners rose to minus 23.6 from minus 26.6, compared with minus 48.8 among renters.

Regional differences

Sentiment is the highest for men since the middle of October, having moved up to minus 28 from minus 31.6 the previous week, and black respondents are the most upbeat since early September. The reading among Northeasterners was the lowest since March at minus 41.9, even as Westerners and Midwesterners reported confidence gains.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, compiled by Langer Research Associates in New York, conducts telephone surveys with a random sample of 1,000 consumers ages 18 and older. Each week, 250 respondents are asked for their views on the U.S. economy, personal finances and buying climate. The margin of error for the headline figure is 3 percentage points.

The percentage of negative responses is subtracted from the share of positive views and divided by three. The most recent reading is based on the average of responses over the previous four weeks.

The comfort index can range from 100, indicating every participant in the survey had a positive response to all three components, to minus 100, signaling all views were negative.

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