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US consumer confidence returns to pre-pandemic levels

US consumer confidence returns to pre-pandemic levels

A customer walks out of a Zara store on Mar 25, 2021, in New York. (Photo: AP/Mark Lennihan)

WASHINGTON: Consumer confidence rose sharply for a second straight month, hitting the highest level since the pandemic began, as the rapid rollout of vaccines and another round of US financial support for Americans boosts optimism.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index advanced to a better-than-expected 121.7 in April, up from 109.0 in March. It was the strongest reading since the index stood at 132.6 in February 2020, right before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the United States.

The present situation index, based on consumers assessment of current business and labour market conditions soared from 110.1 to 139.5. The expectations index, based consumers' views of what conditions will be like over the next six months, posted a more moderate gain, rising from 108.3 last month to 109.8 in April.

Economists believe that the rising consumer confidence will bolster overall economic growth as consumers, who account for 70 per cent of economic activity, step up their spending as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Overall growth, as measured by the gross domestic product, could top 5 per cent in the January-March quarter, and could accelerate even more to 10 per cent or even more in the current April-June quarter as pent-up demand fuels spending. The US releases new GDP data Thursday.

“Consumer confidence has rebounded sharply over the last two months,” said Lynn Franco, senior economic indicators director at the New York-based Conference Board. “Consumers were more upbeat about their income prospects, perhaps due to the improving job market and the recent round of stimulus checks.”

The government distributed individual payments of up to US$1,400 starting in March as part of a US$1.9 trillion relief package President Joe Biden pushed through Congress.

The report showed that the percentage of survey respondents saying jobs were “plentiful” rose to 37.9 per cent in April, the highest level since March 2020.

“Consumer attitudes are likely to keep improving over coming months as the economy continues to reopen and job and income prospects brighten,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics.

Source: AP/ec

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