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Consumer Outlook is Mixed in September


The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which rose nearly 7 points in August, slipped more than a point in September.

However, the Reuters/University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment rose in September to its highest level since January 2008, while the Federal Reserve signaled that the economy is improving, according to a Bloomberg.com report.

The Conference Board Index now stands at 53.1, down from 54.5 in August. The Reuters/University of Michigan final index rose to 73.5 in September, from 65.7 in August.

The Conference Board Present Situation Index decreased from 25.4 to 22.7. The Expectations Index declined slightly, from 73.8 in August to 73.3 in September.

"Consumer Confidence, which had improved in August, retreated slightly in September," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "The Present Situation Index decreased, as consumers viewed both current business conditions and the labor market less favorably than last month. While not as pessimistic as earlier this year, consumers remain quite apprehensive about the short-term outlook and their incomes. With the holiday season quickly approaching, this is not very encouraging news," she added.

According to The Conference Board survey, consumers view current economic conditions less favorably in September. More than 46% assess business conditions as "bad"—down nearly two points from August—while those calling conditions "good" rose just 0.2%, to 8.7%. Consumers' short-term outlook was also slightly more pessimistic.

On the job front, those claiming jobs were "hard to get" rose to 47% from 44.3%, while those who say jobs are "plentiful" dropped from 4.3% to 3.4%. The labor market outlook remained virtually unchanged.

The Reuters/University of Michigan survey, which measures consumer perceptions of their financial situation, showed consumers' outlooks to have improved for current conditions as well as for six months from now. The index of consumer expectations rose from 65 to 73.5, the highest reading in two years.

Read the complete Conference Board news release.

Read the Reuters/University of Michigan news release.