The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

November 7, 2013

Consumer confidence drops for sixth week

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort index dropped to worst reading in a year

WASHINGTON — Consumer confidence fell for the sixth week in a row, reaching the lowest level in a year as Americans struggled to make ends meet.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index declined to minus 37.9 in the week ended Nov. 3, the worst reading since October 2012, from minus 37.6. The one-week drop was the smallest since the partial government shutdown ended in the middle of last month.

A slowdown in hiring brought on by the fiscal gridlock in Washington, combined with the troubled rollout of the Obama administration's online health-care exchanges, may damp sentiment ahead of the holiday-shopping season. At the same time, gains in equities and property values are sustaining higher-income earners, leading to the biggest divergence in attitudes in three years.

"Concerns about personal finances and deterioration in the buying climate underscore further declines in consumer comfort," said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. "It will be interesting to see if the botched launch of Obamacare weighs on spending decisions."

Other reports Thursday showed economic growth unexpectedly accelerated in the third quarter, led by the biggest increase in inventories in more than a year, and fewer Americans filed applications for unemployment benefits last week.

Two of the Bloomberg index's three components retreated last week. The buying-climate measure fell to minus 42, a five- month low, from minus 41. The gauge of personal finances slipped to minus 4.9, the worst reading since December, from minus 3.8 the previous week.

The index assessing current views on the economy improved to minus 66.7 from minus 68, which was the second-weakest reading since October 2012.

The Bloomberg comfort gauge has fallen 9.8 points since the period ended Sept. 22, compared with a loss of 5 points during the first of two 1995-1996 government shutdowns. For the 21-day shutdown that ended Jan. 6, 1996, the index declined 8 points, half of them in the two weeks after the government reopened.

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