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Consumers hold steady, as outlook brightens

Consumer confidence held relatively steady in June after picking up in May, and consumers are decidedly more optimistic looking ahead, The Conference Board reported last week.

The bellwether index, often viewed as a guide to future consumer spending and retail sales, came in at 83.5, compared with a reading of 83.6 the previous month.

"In fact, consumers have gown increasingly optimistic over the last three months," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "The recent turn-around in the stock market and an easing in unemployment claims should keep consumer expectations at current levels and may signal more favorable economic times ahead."

Franco added, "Consumers' expectations for the next six months show continued improvement. Those anticipating an improvement in business conditions rose to 23.9 percent from 23.8 percent. Consumers anticipating conditions to worsen fell to 9.3 percent form 9.6 percent."

Importantly, the crucial employment outlook is improving, consumers said in the monthly canvass of 5,000 households nationwide.

The number of Americans who anticipate that more jobs will become available in the next six months increased to 19 percent from 17.9 percent. The number expecting fewer jobs to become available eased to 17.3 percent from 17.8 percent.

While consumers have grown more bullish about the future, their feelings remain mixed about current business conditions, the survey found. The number who think business is 'bad' declined to 27.7 percent from 28.4 percent a month ago. But the number who think business is 'good' declined as well, slipping to 14.9 percent from 16.1 percent.

Consumer confidence by region

New England -12.7%
Middle Atlantic -3.2
East North Central +4.0
West North Central -7.9
South Atlantic +14.4
East South Central -3.0
West South Central -9.2
Mountain +8.3
Pacific -5.2


Consumer Buying Plans — June
plans to purchase over the next six months

Source: The Conference Board
Homes -21.1%
Carpets -14.5
Cars -23.4
Major appliances -10.8
Vacation -2.8


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