Make us your home page

Consumer confidence levels on upswing

WASHINGTON — Consumer sentiment jumped last week to the highest level in more than five years as record stock prices and the rebound in housing made more Americans feel the expansion will be maintained.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index climbed to minus 29.2 in the week ended April 14, the highest since January 2008, from minus 34 during the prior period. A separate gauge of the economic outlook, issued once a month, was little changed in April at minus 4.

Last week's gain in confidence, the biggest in more than a year, was broad-based with every age group, all regions and most income brackets showing an advance, raising the odds that any slump in consumer spending will prove temporary. At the same time, the mood of those on the lower end of the pay scale remained depressed by higher taxes and a slowdown in hiring.

"Upper-income Americans continue to feel buoyant on the sustainable recovery," said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. "The difficulties that can be observed down the income ladder reflect the significant split in the fortunes of upper-income Americans and low-income cohorts."

Another report Thursday showed little change in the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits. First-time jobless claims climbed by 4,000 to 352,000 in the week ended April 13, the Labor Department said.

Increases as large as last week's 4.8 points, which was the biggest gain since December 2011, are relatively rare for the comfort index. Advances at least that large have only happened in 25 of the 1,400 weeks of polling.

All three comfort index components improved last week, with one crossing into the positive. The personal finances gauge rose to 1.6, its highest level since July, from minus 2.9 the prior week.

The measure assessing Americans' views on the current state of the economy climbed to minus 54.7, the highest since late January 2008. The index of whether consumers consider it a good time to buy improved to a four-month high of minus 34.6.

"We're on the upward curve now," Glenna Blackwell, a 58- year-old from Great Barrington, Mass., said as she browsed a Macy's department store in downtown Washington, intent on spending.

In the nation's capital for business and as a tourist, Blackwell said she was "feeling a little bit better than I did a few months ago."

So far in 2013, the Bloomberg comfort index has averaged minus 34.1, its best showing since 2007, when the gauge averaged minus 10.5.

Increasing optimism among higher-income earners led last week's advance. Those taking home more than $50,000 per year were the least pessimistic in more than five years. Underpinning the gain, those with incomes greater than $100,000 were the most optimistic in more than two years. Advances in the stock market and home values have helped boost confidence by increasing the wealth of asset holders.

The S&P 500 hit a record-high this month, and real estate prices are on the upswing. The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities rose 8.1 percent in January from the same month last year, the biggest gain since June 2006, according to a report released March 26.

Consumer confidence levels on upswing 04/18/13 [Last modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 8:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Trigaux: Closing Iron Yard coding school hits area tech hard but leaders talk of options


    The coming shutdown this fall of the Iron Yard software coding school in downtown St. Petersburg — announced this month as part of a national closing of all 15 Iron Yard locations — remains a shocking event to a Tampa Bay technology community that dreams big of becoming a major player in the Southeast if not …

    In better days last fall, friends and family of graduates at The Iron Yard, based in the Station House in downtown St. Petersburg, applaud during "Demo Day" when grads of the coding school show off their skills. Despite the local success and strong job placement by the coding school, The Iron Yard is closing all of its 15 locations across the country this summer. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  2. U.S. economy gathers steam in second quarter


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy revved up this spring after a weak start to the year, fueled by strong consumer spending. But the growth spurt still fell short of the optimistic goals President Donald Trump hopes to achieve through tax cuts and regulatory relief.

    A government report released Friday showed economic output picked up in the second quarter. 
[Associated Press file photo]
  3. Founder of Tampa home sharing platform questions Airbnb, NAACP partnership


    TAMPA — A Tampa rival to Airbnb, which was launched because of discrimination complaints on the dominant home sharing platform, has concerns about the new partnership between Airbnb and NAACP announced this week.

    Rohan Gilkes poses for a portrait at his home and business headquarters in Tampa. 

Innclusive, a Tampa-based start-up, is a home-sharing platform that focuses on providing a positive traveling experience for minorities. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]
  4. Appointments at Port Tampa Bay and Tampa General Medical Group highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Port Tampa Bay announced that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. Sowell, a former member of the U.S.Marine Corps, will support internal, external and special projects, assist the executive team with management oversight and serve as a liaison on a variety of port …

    Port Tampa Bay announced this week that Jamal Sowell has been named director of special projects. [Handout photo]
  5. Drones restrictions coming at Tampa Bay area airports


    Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems, according to a press release.

    In this February 2017 file photo, a drone flies in Hanworth Park in west London. Starting Sept. 1, Tampa International Airport officials will be enforcing new height restrictions for drones and other unmanned aircraft systems,
[John Stillwell/PA via AP, File]