U.S. Consumer Sentiment Improved in February

A closely watched measure of U.S. consumer confidence rose in February, a sign that many American households are shrugging off renewed volatility in financial markets.

The University of Michigan said Friday its consumer-sentiment index was 99.7 in February, up from 95.7 in January. It was the second-highest monthly reading since January 2004, below only October’s 100.7 reading.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a final February reading of 99.5, down from a preliminary figure of 99.9.

“Consumers based their optimism on favorable assessments of jobs, wages and higher after-tax pay,” said Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief economist.

U.S. households have been upbeat about the economy in recent months, with growth supported by rising incomes and low unemployment. The recent package of tax cuts also has boosted most workers’ take-home pay. However, the stock market has moved lower since late January.

“Economic news heard by consumers continued to be dominated by the tax reform legislation and net job gains, which was untarnished by the consensus view that interest rates would increase and stock prices would remain volatile,” Mr. Curtin said.

A separate measure of U.S. consumer confidence jumped in February to its highest level since November 2000, the Conference Board said Tuesday. That report showed Americans felt better about the current state of the economy as well as its future prospects.
Source: Dow Jones