The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to -48.2 in the week ended May 22, up from a nine-month low of -49.4 the previous week. Readings of -40 or less are associated with recessions and their aftermaths, Bloomberg said.

Likewise, the personal finances gauge rose to -13.7 from -16.5 the previous week. As well, the buying climate index improved slightly to -55.8 from -56.1 the previous week.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose slightly as average gas prices declined 12 cents during the week, from $3.96 to $3.84, the biggest decline since November 2008, Bloomberg said. This decline in gas prices might boost consumer spending, which makes up 70% of the economy, Bloomberg said.

“The combination of a difficult labor market, falling housing prices and rising inflation has given the consumer a case of the blues that will not likely fade anytime soon,” said Bloomberg Senior Economist Joseph Brusuelas.

Ken Hicks, chief executive officer of Foot Locker, said: “The biggest concerns that I have on an ongoing basis are anything that impacts the consumer’s ability to buy discretionary items: gas, jobs. That is a challenge.”

Meanwhile, it was reported that the U.S. gross domestic product expanded 1.8% in the first quarter, lower than the 2.2% forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. And there were 424,000 jobless claims in the week ended May 21, higher than the 404,000 that economists had predicted.

The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index is based on a survey of 1,000 consumers, and its gauge ranges from 100 to -100.

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