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Consumer Sentiment Continues Growth Streak

increase-twoConsumer sentiment hit yet another post-recession high in November, reflecting increased confidence in personal finances and the labor market heading into the holiday spending season.

The Thomson Reuters [1]/University of Michigan [2] consumer sentiment index saw its fourth straight monthly gain last month, climbing to a reading of 88.8. The final index fell in between October's final value of 86.4 and a mid-month reading of 89.4 [3] and was once again the highest level since July 2007.

The entire gain was concentrated in the survey's Current Conditions Index, which rose more than four points to 102.7. The Expectations Index was also up, but only modestly at 79.9.

According to the group conducting the survey, last month's gain was due to improved personal finances as well as a more favorable employment outlook stemming from a stronger pace of economic growth.

On the topic of recent economic developments, survey respondents cited job gains over all other news items and anticipated further declines during the next year. They also said they expect household incomes to increase 1.1 percent annually, the biggest prediction in six years.

The survey's director, Richard Curtin, said lawmakers will need to work together following November's midterm results if they want consumer confidence to keep rising.

"In the past few years, renewed consumer optimism has been repeatedly thwarted by partisan bickering," Curtin said, pointing to showdowns over the debt ceiling, the so-called fiscal cliff, and last year's government shutdown. "The renewed confidence consumers have expressed must be nurtured, not again held hostage to partisan differences."

Based on recent data, Curtin expects consumer spending will make 2015 the best year for the economy since 2005.

The index's increase compares to the latest reading from the Conference Board [4], which reported a slight decline in sentiment to an index level of 88.7 due to less certainty in the job market and increased pessimism over income growth.

In a response to that report, Wells Fargo economists Mark Vitner and Michael Brown noted that consumer spending and economic growth both look fairly strong—"hardly the data you would expect if consumers were growing more concerned."