Consumer confidence steady in February despite weather

Consumer confidence held steady in February according to the monthly benchmark University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters survey, a sign that retail sales and economic growth could rebound well once harsh winter weather in much of the country subsides. 
 
The index stood at 81.6 this month, virtually unchanged from the 81.2 level in January. These readings are up 5.2 percent from the 77.6 level recorded last Feburary.
 
“While the harsh winter weather has kept consumers away from retail outlets, it has not had a detrimental impact on their outlook for future economic conditions. Consumers have displayed remarkable resilience in the face of the polar vortex as well as higher utility bills and minimal employment gains,” survey economist Richard Curtin said.
 
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The survey is a bright spot on a day when economic growth figures disappointed. 
 
The Commerce Department reported that the economy expanded at only a 2.4 percent annual pace in the final three months of  2013, much slower than the 3.2 percent gross domestic product increase initially estimated. 
 
Persistent severe winter weather is being blamed for the slowdown, which cut into the rate of consumer spending, in the fourth quarter, the Commerce Department reported on Friday in its second estimate. 
 
The survey found that expectations rose in February to 72.7 up from 71.2 in January while current conditions estimates by consumers fell slightly to 95.4 from 96.8. 
 
“Without another self-inflicted DC shock in the off-year election, consumers are prepared to renew the pace of spending in the months ahead, with an overall gain of 2.6 percent in 2014,” Curtin said.