U.S. Consumer Mood Brightens a Bit

Consumers look to better times ahead

U.S. consumer confidence perked up in August from depressed levels but does not clearly indicate an economic rebound is at hand, the Conference Board reported on August 26. The business research firm said its consumer confidence index rose to 56.9 from 51.9 in July, a still-weak reading on the index based on a 1985 reading of 100.

"Consumer confidence readings suggest that the economy remains stuck in neutral, but may be showing signs of improvement by early next year," says Lynn Franco, director of research for the Conference Board.

Confidence, seen as a harbinger of consumer spending, a key driver of economic growth, has fallen sharply this year amid a housing meltdown and credit squeeze, before a modest rebound last month.

The survey indicated the present situation decreased to 63.2 from 65.8 last month while the forward-looking expectations index increased to 52.8 from 42.7 in July.

The rise in consumer expectations "suggests better times may be ahead," Franco said. "However, overall readings are still quite low by historical standards and it is still too early to tell if the worst is behind us."

In the survey through August 19, those claiming business conditions are "bad" increased to 33.2% from 32.6%, while those claiming business conditions are "good" edged up to 13.4% from 13.2%.

Those saying jobs are "hard to get" rose to 32% from 30.2% in July, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" declined to 13.1% from 13.6%.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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