Consumer optimism hits five-year high

Washington - Consumer confidence rose last week as an improving job market helped make Americans the least pessimistic about the economy in more than five years.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index improved to minus 27.3 in the seven days ended July 21, matching its highest level since January 2008, from minus 28.4 the prior period. The measure tracking perceptions about the economy posted its biggest advance since September 2008.

Rising home and equity values this year have brightened consumers' moods, which may help propel spending following a lull last quarter. The increase in confidence last week was broad-based with six of seven income brackets showing gains, indicating gains in employment are making households more convinced the economic expansion will be sustained.

"What we're seeing here is consumer sentiment continuing to move in a tight range likely based on Americans' perceptions of growing job security," said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York.

Orders for durable goods climbed more than forecast in June. Bookings for goods meant to last at least three years increased 4.2 percent, after a 5.2 percent gain in May that was bigger than initially reported.

Americans showed increased confidence in the state of the economy, with the measure reaching minus 50.5, the strongest reading since January 2008, from minus 55.3 the period before.

Improved otlooks "are key for further advances in consumer sentiment, given that they're so much bleaker than ratings of personal finances or the buying climate," said Gary Langer, of Langer Research Associates.

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