The rocket's red glare: consumer comfort down

Auto sales

The quarter ended on a high note for automakers. Sales of cars and light trucks climbed to a 16.9 million annualized rate last month, the most since July 2006, industry figures showed this week.

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM) surprised investors with a 1 percent sales gain from a year earlier after analysts projected a decrease. Demand at Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F), Chrysler Group LLC and Nissan Motor Co. (TYO:7201) also beat estimates.

Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, Ford’s chief economist, is projecting sales will remain strong as the worst of the increase in fuel costs is probably over.

“The economy is improving, likely to be on pretty good footing over the course of the second half,” she said during a July 1 teleconference. The outlook “does look very promising.”

Last week’s comfort index positioned part-time worker confidence at its highest since March 2008. Full-timers lost a little ground for a second week after reaching a one-year high in mid-June.

Demographic breakdowns

Confidence among men climbed to an eight-week high, while women’s sentiment fell to a five-week low. Older Americans reported their best sentiment reading since mid-December, and the outlook of those earning between $15,000 and $25,000 rose to an eight-week high.

Since May, the Bloomberg Comfort Index has been presented on a scale of zero to 100 rather than the previous minus 100 to 100, with the midpoint shifting to 50 from zero. The change is also reflected in the gauge’s components. It doesn’t affect the measures’ relationship to each other or their correlation with other economic indicators. Historical data have been revised and analysis of trends, values and other variables also have not been affected.

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