It might be hard to tell from the political news coverage from Washington but the U.S. electorate is the happiest it has been in half a generation with optimism at levels reached only twice in the last 50 years.
The Conference Board reported on Tuesday that its consumer confidence index jumped to 129.5 in November from October's revised 126.2 score. This far outstripped the 124.0 median estimate. It was the highest reading for this gauge since November 2002.
The measure for present conditions improved to 153.9, the highest since June 2001, from 152.0 in October. The index for consumer expectations of their financial condition in six months advanced to 113.3 from 109.0. It was the best reading since September 2000.
In the five decade history of this survey such heights have only been seen twice before.
From September 1997 to August the following year, in the second Clinton administration economic boom, the index averaged 133.4. Then again from February 1999 until November the following year the monthly index averaged 134.7. The only other period with such elevated positive responses was at the very beginning of the series, from January 1967 until September 1969.
The index has gained 40 percent since the summer of 2016, rising from 92.4 in May 2016. It has climbed 28 percent since the presidential election in November starting from 100.8 in October last year,
Consumers are emboldened by a robust job market, strong home prices, equities at record highs and low inflation, all of which are helping to compensate for the slow pace of wage increases.
The positive outlook will likely keep household spending strong into the Christmas season further aiding an economy already seeing its best growth in almost decade.
Gross domestic product, the widest measure of national economic activity, averaged 3.05 percent annualized in the second and third quarters and is running at 3.4 percent in the current three month period, according to the estimate from the Atlanta Fed GDPNow model. If that forecast holds true it would be the first time the U.S. economy grew at 3 percent for three straight quarters since the last six months of 2009 and the first three of 2010.
The percentage of survey respondents who think jobs are plentiful rose to a 16-year high as the share expecting an improved labor market in six months was at an eight month peak. A larger share of answers indicated that consumers intend to buy more big-ticket items such as appliances and cars and also take more vacations.
Next week's Employment Situation Report from the Labor Department is forecast to continue the long string of buoyant statistics with 185,000 new jobs expected. Earlier this month the October report gave a much better than predicted month with 261,000 new positions listed, well ahead of the 185,000 median forecast.
More consumers said they anticipated better business condition in the next six months than they had in October, 22.4 percent to 22.1 percent. Individuals who said they expected their household income to rise in the next six months fell slightly to 20.1 percent in November from 20.3. The share of those who expected better job availability in the next half year rose to 22.6 percent in November from 18.7 percent.
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