Consumer sentiment in U.S. rose to five-month high in December

Home Prices

Property values are one source of comfort for homeowners. The S&P/Case-Shiller national home-price gauge rose 11.2% in the third quarter from the same period in 2012, the biggest year-over-year advance since the first three months of 2006, the latest available data showed.

Equity prices are buoying Americans’ wealth, with the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index up 27% this year through last week.

Payrolls expanded by 203,000 workers in November after a 200,000 gain in October, and the jobless rate fell to a five- year low of 7%, according to Labor Department figures.

The improvement in the economy and job market helps explain why the Federal Reserve decided to begin reducing stimulus. The central bank on Dec. 18 said it will trim monthly bond purchases to $75 billion from $85 billion starting in January.

Sustained gains in consumer confidence are fueling purchases and benefiting companies such as Neiman Marcus Group LLC. Retail sales in November climbed by the most in five months, Commerce Department figures showed on Dec. 12.

Neiman Marcus

Neiman Marcus Chief Executive Officer Karen Katz said the feedback from the Dallas-based retailer’s sales staff was that shoppers are spending this holiday season, and the most affluent consumers are “feeling good” about their finances.

“We are in constant communication with our sellers, they’re telling us that they’re just feeling like the customers are coming in really ready to shop,” Katz said on a Dec. 18 earnings call with analysts. “If we offer them kind of unique merchandise, really regardless of the category, they’re really open to spending money.”

Demand for cars continues to firm. Auto sales advanced to a 16.3 million annualized rate in November, the highest since May 2007, according to data from Ward’s Automotive Group.

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