U.S. consumer confidence nudges up in February

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumer confidence edged up in February, suggesting a steady pace of consumer spending that could support the economy despite growing fears over the impact of the fast spreading coronavirus, which have roiled financial markets.

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index ticked up to a reading of 130.7 this month from a downwardly revised 130.4 in January. The index was previously reported at 131.6 in January. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast it edging up to 132.0 in February. The survey made no mention of the coronavirus.

The survey’s present situation measure, based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions, fell to 165.1 this month from 173.9 in January. The expectations index based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions rose this month.

The report came on the heels of a survey by data firm IHS Markit last Friday showing its flash Composite PMI Output Index, which tracks the U.S. manufacturing and services sectors, contracted to a 76-month low in February. IHS Markit attributed the plunge in the Composite PMI below the 50 threshold to the coronavirus outbreak, which it said was hurting travel and tourism industries, as well as disrupting supply chains.

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