Bloomberg by the Numbers: 15.5

Photograph by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A customer, right, shop for a powerboat on Dec. 17, 2012 in North Miami, Florida.

That’s how much the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort index rose in the past 17 weeks.

The index, which asks Americans to rate the national economy, the buying climate and their personal finances, improved to minus 31.9 in the week ended Dec. 16 from minus 47.4 in the week ended Aug. 19.

The current index is at the highest level in eight months and near a 2012 high of minus 31.4 that was set twice in April. The minus 47.4 index in mid-August tied a 2012 low from mid-January.

The index has gained 12.8 points since the beginning of the year, “on pace for its best annual improvement since 1998,” Langer Research Associates, which produces the index for Bloomberg News, said in a written analysis.

“Gains in employment, a rebound in housing that’s boosting home equity, and lower gasoline prices are giving households reason to be upbeat during the holiday-shopping season,” Bloomberg News reporter Shobhana Chandra wrote yesterday. “At the same time, an impending rise in taxes and cuts in government spending threaten to set back consumer optimism as the world’s largest economy enters 2013.”

Despite the improvement in the index, the current reading of minus 31.4 “remains well below its long-term average” of minus 15.8, the Langer Research Associates analysis said.

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