Consumer, Investor Indexes Show Surge Of Optimism

By John S. McClenahen The bears continue to have their moments on Wall Street. However, elsewhere in the U.S. the bulls appear to be running. The Consumer Confidence Index compiled by the New York-based Conference Board, a business research group, surged to 110.2 (1985=100) this month, up from 95.0 in February. Both of its key components advanced. The Present Situation Index rose to 111.5 in March from 96.4 in February. The Expectations Index increased to 109.3 from 94.0 last month. "Consumers' confidence has been bolstered by improvement in business and market conditions," observes Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "The latest gains are striking. The jump in the Present Situation Index is the largest gain experienced in 25 years, while the Expectations Index has not risen this sharply in a decade." Meanwhile, the Index of Investor Optimism, compiled by UBS AG and the Gallup Organization, this month rose to its highest level since November 2000. The index now stands at 121, some 29 points higher than the 92 recorded in February. In November 2000, the index was 130. The survey on which the March index is based was conducted between March 1 and March 14 and included 1,004 randomly selected U.S. investors in households with total savings and investments of $10,000 or more.

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