Consumers in U.S. Hold Negative Economic Outlook as Fuel Climbs
(Bloomberg) Americans remain pessimistic about the economic outlook in February as rising gasoline prices compound the damage done by a higher payroll tax.
The gap between positive and negative expectations was minus 7 this month, unchanged from January’s three-month low, according to the Bloomberg Comfort Index. The measure reflecting present conditions for the week ended Feb. 17 rose to minus 33.4, the highest reading this year, from minus 35.9 in the previous seven-day period.
A 44-cent jump in the cost of a gallon of gasoline over the past month is chipping away as disposable income just as households also try cope with a two percentage-point increase in the levy that funds Social Security. A jobless rate that’s been stuck around 8 percent for almost a year may also be making consumers less secure about the economy’s long-term prospects.
“The forward-looking measure of economic optimism is sending a fairly clear signal that many households are having trouble simultaneously adjusting to higher payroll taxes and gasoline prices,” said Joe Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. “Those concerns are likely to weigh heavily on the array of consumer sentiment and spending data going forward.” .....................(more)