Americans more optimistic

January 29, 2015 09:46 AM

Americans’ confidence increased last week to the highest level since July 2007 as job gains and falling prices at the gasoline pump boosted attitudes about the economy and personal finances.

The Bloomberg weekly index of consumer comfort climbed to 47.3 in the period ended Jan. 25 from 44.7, the biggest weekly advance since March 2010. A gauge of optimism about the economy has almost doubled since the end of September, while a measure of personal finances was the strongest since October 2007.

The data are the latest to show American households could potentially help the U.S. power past a global slowdown. Incomes, bolstered by plunging gasoline prices and the lowest unemployment rate since mid-2008, are driving consumer spending, which makes up about 70% of the economy.

“By all accounts, it’s been a great start to the new year for consumer sentiment,” Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates LLC in New York, which produces the data for Bloomberg, said in an e-mailed statement.

The fewest Americans in 15 years filed applications for unemployment benefits during a holiday-shortened week that typically makes the data more volatile, another report showed. Jobless claims plunged by 43,000 to 265,000 in the week ended Jan. 24, the lowest since April 2000, according to the Labor Department.

Economy View

The Bloomberg measure of consumers’ views of the national economy surged to 42.3, the highest since July 2007, from 38.9. A measure of personal finances jumped to 60.7 from 56.6, and the buying climate index increased to 39 from 38.5.

Lower energy prices and job gains are underpinning sentiment for most Americans. The cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.04 on Wednesday, down from a high in April 2014 of $3.70, according to figures from AAA, the largest U.S. auto group.

Almost every demographic category registered gains in confidence last week. Sentiment among those 35 to 44 years old advanced the most. Full-time workers, homeowners, married adults and those in the western U.S. also posted gains.

Among income groups, those making in excess of $50,000 were more upbeat than at any time since August 2007, while those earning less than $15,000 grew more pessimistic for a fourth week as that gauge dropped to a six-week low. The index for Americans with incomes between $15,000 and $25,000 advanced to its highest since September 2007.

About the Author