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Thu, Dec 31, 2009 - Page 10 News List

US consumer confidence up, house prices stall


US consumer confidence rose to a three-month high this month, while prices in the hard-hit housing sector stalled in October, breaking a five-month string of gains.

The consumer confidence reading released on Tuesday reinforced views that the economy is gradually recovering, and the October housing data from the widely watched Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller indexes was seen as indicating the market is stabilizing.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes rose to a reading of 52.9 this month from a revised 50.6 last month as job market pessimism eased and consumers’ expectations reached a two-year high.

“There were some small signs of weakness, but all in all, it’s a better number. It continues the trend of the US economy improving,” said Camilla Sutton, senior currency strategist at Scotia Capital in Toronto.

Despite some signs of optimism, consumers this month rated their present situation the worst since February 1983, the Conference Board said. The US economy has been struggling to rebound from the worst recession in decades.

The consumer confidence index beat analysts’ forecast of 52.5, which was based on a Reuters poll that ranged between 46.0 and 57.0. Last month’s reading was also revised higher from an originally reported 49.5.

The expectations index rose to 75.6 — the highest since December 2007 — from 70.3 last month.

Consumers’ labor market assessment also showed some signs of improvement, with the “jobs hard to get” index decreasing to 48.6 from 49.2.

Consumers rated their present situation the worst since February 1983, with that index falling to 18.8 from 21.2.

The “jobs plentiful” index also fell, dropping to 2.9 — also its lowest since February 1983 — from 3.1.

In housing, the S&P composite index of home prices in 20 metropolitan areas was flat in October, falling short of expectations for a 0.2 percent rise. September’s index was revised upward to a gain of 0.4 percent, from a previously reported 0.3 percent.

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