U.S. Consumer Sentiment Surged in Early October -- Update

By Sarah Chaney Features Dow Jones Newswires

A measure of U.S. consumer sentiment rose swiftly in the first half of October to its highest level since 2004, a robust sign for household spending this fall.

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The University of Michigan Friday said its preliminary reading on consumer sentiment was 101.1 in October, up from 95.1 in September. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a preliminary reading of 95.3 in October.

The rise in sentiment was propelled by strong gains in consumers' view of current and future economic conditions.

"Confidence continues to be supported by the soaring stock market and conditions in the labor market which, looking through the disruption caused by the hurricanes in September, still look very strong," said Andrew Hunter, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, in a note to clients.

Still, the early October increase also reflects "an unmistakable sense among consumers that economic prospects are now about as good as could be expected," said Richard Curtin, the Michigan survey's chief economist.

"This 'as good as it gets' outlook is supported by a moderation in the expected pace of growth in both personal finances and the overall economy," Mr. Curtin said. The latest survey offered no indications that consumers anticipate an economic downturn in the near future, he said.

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The index, which jumped following last year's presidential election, was up 15.9% in October from a year earlier.

An index tracking current economic conditions climbed to 116.4 in October from 111.7 in September. An index tracking expectations about the future was up to 91.3 in October from September's 84.4.

Other measures of consumer confidence remain high. Confidence among American consumers fell only slightly in September after two major hurricanes struck the U.S., the Conference Board said in September.

Stronger consumer sentiment has translated into increased spending in some pockets of the economy, though recent hurricane activity continues to cloud the underlying economic picture. Spending at U.S. retailers rebounded strongly last month, boosted by surging car sales and higher gasoline prices in the wake of several devastating hurricanes, the Commerce Department said Friday.

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

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

October 13, 2017 10:57 ET (14:57 GMT)