Consumer Comfort in U.S. Improves to Highest Level This Year

Confidence among U.S. consumers rose for a fifth week, reaching the highest level this year as improving stock and home prices gave households a lift.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index improved to minus 32.4 in the week ended March 3 from minus 32.8 in the prior period. The share of Americans with a positive view of the U.S. economy held at its highest level since early 2008 and more people said it was a good time to buy needed goods and services.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied to an all-time high this week and residential real-estate values in 2012 climbed by the most in six years, giving a boost to household wealth that may help sustain spending. An improving job market will also be critical to supporting confidence as the highest gasoline prices in four months and a bigger payroll tax hurt disposable income.

“The rise in equity prices continues to bolster consumer confidence despite a number of economic headwinds,” said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. “The risk going forward is the lagged impact on confidence and spending due to tax hikes, which will disproportionately burden lower-income groups.”

Another report today showed the number of Americans who filed for unemployment benefits declined to a six-week low, pointing to further improvement in the labor market.

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