Consumer confidence has inched to its best in more than six months, led by improved ratings of personal finances. But it's hardly party time: A near-unanimous 93 percent of Americans still say the national economy's in bad shape.
The ABC News Consumer Comfort Index stands at -45 on its scale of +100 to -100, a 6-point gain in two weeks to its best since Oct. 5. Nonetheless, the CCI is only 9 points from its worst in 23 years of weekly polls, -54 on Jan. 25. Its lifetime average is -11.
Half of Americans now rate their personal finances positively, up 5 points in three weeks to the most since mid-October. Far fewer, 26 percent, call it a good time to spend money, albeit the most since the start of the year. And as noted, only 7 percent rate the national economy positively. That's been in single digits for half a year.
This week marks Barack Obama's first 100 days in office; the CCI has climbed 8 points since his inauguration – but with sharp partisan differences. It's risen by 21 points among Democrats and by 11 points among independents – but dropped by 8 points among Republicans.
There is some optimism for the future, albeit also highly partisan. In a separate ABC News/Washington Post poll this week 55 percent are optimistic about the state of the national economy, the most since 2006, and the number who say the country's in a serious long-term decline has fallen by 10 points since February, to 46 percent.
But future hopes can't replace the reality of the worst job market in a quarter century, with unemployment up to 8.5 percent.
TREND – The index's 6-point gain in two weeks is its largest since September; it breaks the CCI out of a 7-point range, -47 to -54, in which it'd wallowed for a record 28 weeks.
Still, the index has been below -40 for 53 consecutive weeks, a record, and hasn't seen positive territory since March 2007. It's 34 points below its long-term average, and its 2009 average to date, -50, is 6 points below its worst annual average, -44 in 1992.
Its best yearlong average was +29 in 2000; its best week, +38 in January 2000.
INDEX – Among the CCI's three gauges, ratings of personal finances typically are the strongest. Today they're 4 points better than the 2009 average and just 7 points below the long-term average. But fewer than a majority have rated their own finances positively for 40 weeks straight, surpassed only by a 46-week stretch in 1991-92.
The 26 percent who say it's a good time to buy things is up 4 points in two weeks to match this year's high. But it's still 11 points below the long-term average and just 8 points above the record low reached in October and August.
Positive ratings of the national economy, meanwhile, have been locked in at a dismal 7 percent – 32 points below average – in four of the last five weeks. They've been in single digits for a record 25 weeks.
GROUPS – The index is negative across the board for the ninth consecutive week, with an unusually narrow partisan gap. This week's partisan gap is only 2 points (the smallest since September 2000) – -41 among Republicans and -43 among Democrats, their best in a year. (It's -44 among independents.) The average Democratic-Republican gap is 33 points; it was 41 points last year.