(Bloomberg) -- Consumer sentiment dropped last week by the most since late October on a sharp pullback in optimism about personal finances even before the latest stock-market slump.

Bloomberg’s index of consumer comfort decreased 2.1 points to 63.5 in the week ended Feb. 23, according to a report Thursday. A measure of confidence in household finances registered the steepest drop since October 2018.

Key Insights

  • The steady retreat in the consumer comfort index marks a departure from the months-long climb to a 20-year high in late January as gauges of the buying climate and the economy also fell. Sentiment may take an additional hit after U.S. stocks swooned on fears about the economic fallout from the coronavirus.
  • The figures could also indicate a less fervent job market than implied by the 225,000 gain in January employment and some concerns about income. Year-over-year wage growth has cooled since August.

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  • Overall consumer comfort and the finance gauge stand at lowest level since the week ended Dec. 22, while the buying-climate index is the weakest since Dec. 15.
  • Comfort for those earning less than $50,000 a year declined to the lowest since December.
  • Sentiment among political independents was the weakest in seven weeks, while for Democrats it was the lowest since Dec. 22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Vince Golle in Washington at vgolle@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Scott Lanman at slanman@bloomberg.net, Jeff Kearns

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