U.S. Consumer Sentiment Rose in August -- 2nd Update

By Sarah Chaney Features Dow Jones Newswires

A measure of U.S. consumer sentiment rose in August, a positive sign for household spending heading into the fall.

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The University of Michigan on Friday said its consumer-sentiment index was 96.8 in August, up from 93.4 in July, but down from a preliminary August reading of 97.6. Consumers' expectations for the future of the economy underpinned the rise in sentiment.

The sentiment index has been higher during the first eight months of 2017 than in any year since 2000, mainly a result of consumers' positive view of their financial situations, including gains in home values and stock prices.

Strength in the labor market is also bolstering consumer confidence.

"With August's rebound, this measure basically remains at heights last seen before the recession...so consumer attitudes are very positive," said Joshua Shapiro, chief economist at MFR, Inc., in a note to clients.

Richard Curtin, the Michigan survey's chief economist, said when asked about news of recent developments, surprisingly few consumers referenced events including political turmoil in the wake of violence in Charlottesville, Va., and the nuclear threat from North Korea.

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An index tracking current economic conditions fell to 110.9 in August from 113.4 in July. An index tracking expectations about the future was up to 87.7 in August from July's 80.5.

Mr. Curtin said too few interviews were conducted to fully gauge the impact of Hurricane Harvey on consumer sentiment. The storm has resulted in higher gas prices at the pump.

"Given the current resilience of consumers, temporary increases in gas prices as well as a brief period of weakness in economic growth and employment are unlikely to derail confidence," he said. "Nonetheless, all of these events are more likely to increase precautionary motives and to slightly temper spending trends."

Other measures of consumer confidence remain high. The Conference Board's consumer-confidence index rose in August to the second highest reading since late 2000. Economic data offer signs that consumption growth could remain strong in the coming months. Sales at U.S. retailers rose 0.6% in July, the biggest monthly gain since December, the Commerce Department said last month.

Write to Sarah Chaney at sarah.chaney@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 01, 2017 12:33 ET (16:33 GMT)