U.S. Consumer Comfort Rises a Third Week, Matches Pandemic High

A gauge of sentiment among U.S. consumers advanced for a third straight week and matched the highest level since April as households grew a bit more upbeat about their finances, the economy and the buying climate.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose 1.8 points to 49.8 last week, matching a mid-September reading that was the strongest since early April, data released Thursday show. The improvement coincided withwelcome developments on the coronavirus vaccine front that put the world one step closer to putting the pandemic behind it.

Despite the gain, the gauge is still well short of its pre-pandemic level and stuck in a 3.5-point range that’s persisted for the last 2 1/2 months.

The comfort measure of personal finances climbed to its second-best level since March against a backdrop of a stock-market rally and record-low mortgage rates that have encouraged more home refinancing. More upbeat views about finances, along with a seven-week high in the buying climate gauge, may help explain robust retail sales in recent months, despite a smaller advance in October.

The comfort index is based on a four-week rolling average and reflects interviews from Oct. 20 to Nov. 15, which included the election. Sentiment among political independents last week advanced to the highest level since late March, though confidence also improved for Republicans and Democrats.

Meanwhile, the monthly economic expectations index was unchanged in November at 43, the highest since March though down from a pre-pandemic high of 57.5 in February.

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