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A customer wearing a mask carries his purchases as he leaves a Target store during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Online sales at Target more than doubled as the pandemic put millions in lockdown during the first quarter, revealing further the critical role big box stores played in getting supplies to an immobilised population. The Minneapolis company reported Wednesday, May 20 that comparable-store sales, which include online purchases, rose 10.8 per cent for the three-month period that ended May 2. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) ( Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Consumer confidence in US posts biggest gain in 17 years

A customer wearing a mask carries his purchases as he leaves a Target store during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Online sales at Target more than doubled as the pandemic put millions in lockdown during the first quarter, revealing further the critical role big box stores played in getting supplies to an immobilised population. The Minneapolis company reported Wednesday, May 20 that comparable-store sales, which include online purchases, rose 10.8 per cent for the three-month period that ended May 2. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) ( Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Consumer confidence rebounded in September by the most in more than 17 years as Americans grew more upbeat about the outlook for the economy and job market, though sentiment remained below pre-pandemic levels.

“Consumers also expressed greater optimism about their short-term financial prospects, which may help keep spending from slowing further in the months ahead.”

— Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators, Conference Board,

The Conference Board’s index increased 15.5 points, the most since April 2003, to 101.8 from August’s upwardly revised 86.3, according to a report issued Tuesday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for a reading of 90 in September, and the figure exceeded all estimates.

The group’s gauge of current conditions rose 12.7 points to 98.5, while a measure of the short-term outlook jumped 17.4 points to a three-month high.

Those planning to buy a car increased to 11.8 per cent from 10.1 per cent. (File photo)

Even with the outsize improvement in September, Americans remain downbeat about the current state of the job market and the coronavirus. Headed into the final months of the year, an increase in infection rates and the absence of fiscal relief for the millions of unemployed could weigh on confidence and upend what’s been a solid recovery in retail sales.

“Consumers also expressed greater optimism about their short-term financial prospects, which may help keep spending from slowing further in the months ahead,” Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement.

Survey participants indicated they were more likely to make big purchases in the near future, including buying a home.

Respondents indicated they were more likely to make big purchases in the months ahead. The share expecting to buy major appliances rose to a seven-month high of 49 per cent from 44.9 per cent. Those planning to buy a car increased to 11.8 per cent from 10.1 per cent, and more intended to buy a home.

The share of survey respondents who said they expected their incomes to increase rose to a six-month high of 17.5 per cent, though that’s down from 22.7 per cent who said so in February before the pandemic. Optimism in general was driven by higher-income individuals, the report showed.


Customers carrying shopping bags outside a Century 21 department store in New York, US, on Monday, September 14, 2020. Century 21 Stores, an iconic New York off-price department store chain, filed for bankruptcy with plans to shut down, becoming the latest victim of the retail industry carnage that’s accelerated during the pandemic.
(Photo: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Larger shares also expected more jobs and better business conditions in coming months.

Consumers that said business conditions are currently favorable increased to a five-month high of 18.3 per cent from 16 per cent. The percentage of consumers who said jobs are hard to come by decreased to 20 per cent, the lowest since March, from 23.6 per cent.

— Bloomberg