U.S. Consumer Comfort Posts Record Two-Week Drop on Economy View

Confidence among American consumers over the last two weeks slumped by the most on record as businesses closures across the country left millions out of work.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index tumbled 3.4 points in the week ended March 29 to 56.3, the lowest since June 2018, according to the survey released Thursday based on responses collected through Sunday. Including the 3.3-point drop in the previous period, the two-week slide is the worst in records back to 1985.

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Views of the economy also saw largest-ever two-week plunge, while attitudes toward the buying climate and personal finances deteriorated further amid volatility across financial markets. The 12.1-point drop in comfort about the economy dwarfed a previous record decline of 8 points in February 2008 during the last recession.

The comfort gauge is extending declines from a 20-year peak in late January as economists say the U.S. is entering a sharp recession on virus containment measures. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits more than doubled to a second straight record as 6.65 million people filed jobless claims in the week ended March 28, the Labor Department reported earlier Thursday.

“These unprecedented declines in consumer sentiment mark the vast economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis,” Gary Langer, head of Langer Research Associates, which produces the index, said in a statement. “Unemployment claims have skyrocketed, commerce has plummeted in the face of business closures and stay-at-home orders, and the markets are in turmoil.”

Declines in the comfort index have been steepest for those with greater exposure to the stock market, Langer said, with ratings for Americans with household incomes of $100,000 or more falling to a more than three-year low of 66.5.

Sentiment deteriorated in almost every category, but two groups showed slight improvement: Comfort ratings for those without high school degrees and part-time workers both rose.

— With assistance by Chris Middleton

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