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Post-ABC CCI: Battling High Pump Prices

Despite steadily increasing gasoline prices, the Washington Post-ABC News Consumer Comfort Index (CCI) has nudged upwards over the past two weeks, buoyed by the highest personal finance ratings since last fall.

This week the Post-ABC CCI stands at -3 on its scale from -100 to +100, after several weeks hovering around -7, its low for the year. The index now matches its average for 2007, and remains above its long-term average of -9 in weekly polls since 1985.

The modest improvement in consumer confidence has been driven primarily by an uptick in Americans' assessment of their personal financial situation. This week, 65 percent said their finances are in "excellent" or "good" shape; that's the most to say so since November.

Personal finances are one of the three core components of the CCI, and the only one to get better over the past two weeks. The other two measures, a rating of the national economy and the buying climate, have hardly budged. And it's the public's assessment about whether this is a good or bad time to buy things that bears watching.

Historically, ratings of the buying climate and the CCI more broadly have been closely linked to gas prices, which have spiked recently. Yesterday, the Department of Energy reported that the average cost of a gallon of gas topped three dollars for the first time since August. At a national average of $3.05, pump prices are a mere two cents shy of their nominal record set in September 2005.

How long personal finance ratings can stay afloat in the face of high fuel prices is an open question as the summer driving season approaches. For now, relatively low unemployment and wage gains counterbalance the pain at the pump, at least some of it.

In the latest Washinton Post-ABC News poll, 67 percent of Americans said increases in gas prices have already caused them financial hardship, 36 percent say it has been a "serious" hardship.

Westerners feel the impact most acutely: in the region with the highest average gas prices in the nation, four in ten residents say recent increases have caused serious financial hardship.

Have recent price increases in gasoline caused any financial hardship for you or others in your household?

Yes, NETYes, serious hardshipYes, not serious hardshipNo hardship

Full question wording available

And what's ahead? In a CNN poll released this week, many Americans said they anticipate continued increases in fuel costs: 45 percent said it's "very likely" that prices will rise to $4 per gallon this year, and 10 percent said a gallon would likely set them back $5 within the year.

When asked in an ABC News poll last summer - when prices teetered on $3 a gallon - how high pump prices would have to go before they started to cut back on driving, the average answer was $4.16 a gallon.

METHODOLOGY: The Washington Post-ABC News Consumer Comfort Index (CCI) is a rolling average based on telephone interviews with 1,000 randomly selected adults nationwide conducted over the previous four-week period. Interviewing for this week's data concluded on May 6, 2007. New data are released every Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Additional information is available at

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  May 8, 2007; 5:16 PM ET
Categories:  Post-ABC Consumer Comfort Index  
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Consumer Comfort Index? So WaPo purports to have come up with an index?

Thank you so much, but there are two indices out there that economists have been using for a very long time and who are very familiar wwith its methodology: the Michigan Index and the Conference Board Index.

Your Consumer Comffort Index is a total unknown. Why should anyone with any brains take it seriously?

Publish an article that describes your methodology and show that back-testing validates your index.

Otherwise, just shut up.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2007 10:58 PM | Report abuse

If you bothered to check the link at the top, they do describe their methodology. Not saying it's good or bad, but they do provide details.

Posted by: Josh | May 9, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

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