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Consumer Confidence Improves Despite Economic Challenges

After reaching a year-to-date high in October, consumer confidence continued to climb in November, according to ""The Conference Board's"":http://www.conference-board.org/ recently released _Consumer Confidence Index_.


The index, which is based on survey conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, ""posted a moderate increase"" in November, rising to 73.7 from 73.1 previously. According to Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, the index is now at its highest level in more than four and a half years.

The month's ""moderate improvement was the result of an uptick in expectations, while consumers' assessment of present-day conditions continues to hold steady,"" Franco said.

The Present Situation Index stood at 56.6 in the most recent report, just barely down from 56.7 in October. When asked about business conditions, consumers expressed a more reserved--though not necessarily pessimistic--attitude: While the number of respondents who say conditions are ""good"" declined (falling to 14.4 percent from 16.5 percent previously), so too did the number of respondents who believe conditions are ""bad"" (31.5 percent compared to 33.0 percent in October).


Meanwhile, consumers' assessment of the labor market improved. The number of those claiming jobs are ""plentiful"" increased from 10.4 percent to 11.2 percent, while those claiming jobs are ""hard to get"" held at 38.8 percent.

While the Present Situation Index was virtually unchanged, the Expectations Index showed a bigger gain, rising to 85.1 from 84.0 last month. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 22.2 percent from 21.5 percent, while those expecting conditions to get worse fell to 14.3 percent from an even 15.0 percent.

The outlook for the labor market was more or less the same from month to month. The number of respondents saying they anticipate more jobs in coming months improved slightly to 20.3 percent (from 19.7 percent), while those saying they expect fewer jobs floated at 19.7 percent. The proportion of consumers saying they expect an increase in their incomes fell from 16.7 percent to 15.9 percent.

""Over the last few months, consumers have grown increasingly more upbeat about the current and expected state of the job market, and this turnaround in sentiment is helping to boost confidence,"" Franco said.

In an analysis of the data, ""Capital Economics"":http://www.capitaleconomics.com/ economist Amna Asaf noted that ""it's remarkable how consumer confidence in the US economy has continued to improve"" despite the ongoing recovery from superstorm Sandy and the coming fiscal cliff.

""Overall, this is an encouraging report, but we suspect that the looming fiscal cliff will have a more marked impact in December,"" Asaf said.