US consumers are a confident bunch heading toward Christmas and the close of 2012. The Conference Board’s confidence index climbed to 73.7, the highest since February 2008, from a revised 73.1 reading the prior month, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The median forecast of 75 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected a reading of 73.
The good mood was evident in real estate, with a record percentage ofAmericans planning to buy a house, indicating improving property values and a job market recovery are making households more willing to make long-term commitments.
Sustained gains in consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, may help overcome concern over the fiscal cliff of tax increases and government spending cuts slated for early 2013.
“Confidence is holding up well,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, who projected the confidence measure would climb to 74. “Spending is going to continue to increase. This bodes well for the fourth quarter.”
Other reports today signaled business investment may rebound and home prices are climbing. Demand for goods such as machinery and electronics climbed in October by the most in five months, the Commerce Department reported. Bookings for non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft, a proxy for future business investment, rose 1.7% last month, the most since May.
Property values rose in the year ended September by the most since July 2010, according to data from S&P/Case-Shiller. The index of home prices in 20 cities climbed 3% from September 2011, after advancing 2% in the year to August.
The gain in confidence may have been restrained by a plunge in the Middle Atlantic region, the area covering New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania that was most affected by superstorm Sandy. That area’s index plunged 14.6 points to a three-month low of 54.2. Seven of eight other regions saw confidence increase, the report showed, with the Mountain area being little changed.
Consumers are benefiting as record-low mortgage rates drive a recovery in housing. Sales of previously owned homes unexpectedly climbed in October, and the median price rose 11.1% from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Estimates for consumer confidence ranged from 65 to 79.1 in the Bloomberg survey of 75 economists. The measure averaged 53.7 during the recession that ended in June 2009.
The Conference Board’s measure of present conditions was little changed at 56.6 this month from 56.7 in October. The gauge of expectations for the next six months rose to 85.1 from 84.
The share of consumers who said jobs are currently plentiful increased to 11.2%, the most since September 2008, from 10.4%. Those who said jobs are hard to get were little changed at 38.8%. The percent of respondents expecting more jobs to become available in the next six months increased to 20.3, the highest since February 2011, from 19.7 the previous month.
The share planning to buy a house within the next six months jumped to 6.9%, the most in data going back to 1964. The previous all-time high was 5.5%.
Among other measures, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index climbed in November to a five- year high, while the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index last week hovered near the strongest point in seven months.