U.S. consumers’ ratings of the economy dropped by a record over the past week as the coronavirus halted business, dragging down a broader confidence gauge by the most since 2007.
The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index tumbled 3.3 points to a four-month low of 59.7, according to the survey released Tuesday based on responses collected through Sunday. Views of the buying climate fell to a 10-month low while those for personal finances also deteriorated amid the rout in stocks.
“This week’s sharp decline in consumer sentiment is commensurate with the economic disruption we’re seeing in the coronavirus crisis — and a cause for deep concern about consumer behavior in the weeks and months ahead,” said Gary Langer, head of Langer Research Associates, which produces the comfort index.
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The report, moved up two days from its usual Thursday release for a faster read on how the deadly outbreak is crippling the world’s largest economy, is a sharp break from several months of buoyant readings. Economists expect additional downbeat views in Friday’s release of the final University of Michigan sentiment index for March and next week’s Conference Board consumer confidence reading for the month.
The comfort report shows higher-income groups that are typically more affected by shifts in financial markets saw some of the biggest drops in their sentiment after U.S. stocks fell 15% last week, the biggest weekly plunge since October 2008.
Americans with household incomes over $100,000 saw the steepest decline across all sub-indexes, falling 8.6 points to a 13-month low of 72.4. Other categories seeing steeper declines included married adults, Republicans, full-time workers and those with college experience.
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