U.S. Consumer Index Suggests More Economic Growth

The "soft patch" that the U.S. economy has been in for the past few months may turn into solid growth in the months ahead.

One indicator: Consumers' economic expectations, which had been had been declining since January of this year, looked up in May, says the Conference Board, a New York-based business research group. The expectations part of its consumer confidence index, reflecting economic attitudes about the next six months, improved to 92.5 in May from 86.7 in April.

That helped boost its overall index to 102.2 (1985=100) in May from 97.5 in April.

"Consumer confidence improved in May, gaining back nearly all the ground it lost in April," observes Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center. "Consumers' concerns about the economy and jobs have eased."

However, not all readings of the May 31st's report were as positive, with Merrill Lynch & Co., for example, saying "recent trends in sentiment still suggest that consumer spending growth will edge lower in the coming months." That would be significant, since consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity.

The consumer confidence index is based upon a monthly survey of a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households and is conducted for the Conference Board by TNS NFO.

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