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BigResearch: Consumer Confidence Steady, Fewer Expect Full Recovery

In its most recent weekly consumer survey, research firm BigResearch found consumer confidence to be steady at 30%, but fewer shoppers than last year predict a full economic recovery.

“And the state of the consumer is … stagnant,” BigResearch noted. “Barring the 27.2% recorded in July '09, those confident/very confident in chances for a strong economy have remained around 30% since May '09, and the New Year doesn't appear to have done much to boost hopes about our economic strength for 2010.”

This month, 30% remain confident, on par with last month — 29.9%— and increasing five points from a year ago when the rate was 24.7%.

Consumer sentiment continues to trend below readings from January 2008 at 33.5% and 2007 at 50.5%.

Also regarding the future of the economy, when asked if it will ever rebound to what it was before the current economic crisis, two in five, or 40.8%, answered yes while 30.3% don't think so and 29% said they aren't sure.

By comparison to March 2009, half -- 49.7% -- were positive about a full recovery while only one in five, or 21.9%, didn't hold out hope for a recovery and 28.4% were undecided.

BigResearch said the attempted Christmas Day bombing on Flight 253 “appeared to have elevated consumers' concerns with political/national security issues.” This month, 24.0% report they continue to worry about homefront affairs, up about two points from a month ago (22.2%), but remaining below January 2009 at 26.7%.

“With the holiday bills beginning to roll in, consumers retain their penchant for practicality in the New Year,” BigResearch added, citing 49.7% of consumers contending they are practical purchasers, stable with December 2009's 49.5% rate, though well below the record-high of 57.3% set a year ago, “when consumers were reeling from the confirmed recession, bank busts, and downhill slide on Wall Street. Consumers remain focused on home economics, with 46.8% focused on balancing their budgets, up nearly three points from last month (44.0%).”

One year ago, a record number of 66% of consumers were also focused on needs over wants versus this month's reading of 60.2%, who didn't quite reach that height but were three points up from December 2009's 57.2%, “an indicator that consumer spending — at least on impulses or non-necessities — is likely to remain tight during Q1 of 2010.”

In response to what BigResearch described as “the million dollar question” —Have consumers shifted to penny-pinching ways for good or will they resume spending as the economy rebounds? — 50.9% answered they will consider each purchase more carefully over the next five years.

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