U.S. consumers more confident as holiday shopping season peaks

Keywords Economy / Retail
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American consumers are feeling more confident than they have since summer, good news for businesses with the all-important holiday shopping season peaking.

The Conference Board, a business research group, said Wednesday that its consumer confidence index rose for the second straight month, to 110.7 in December from 101 in November. That’s much better than analysts’ forecasts of 104.5 and the highest reading since July.

Americans’ expectations of a recession in the next 12 months declined to the lowest level so far this year.

The index measures both Americans’ assessment of current economic conditions and their outlook for the next six months.

Consumer spending accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity, so economists pay close attention to consumer behavior as they take measure of the broader economy.

The index measuring Americans short-term expectations for income, business and the job market shot up to 85.6 in December from 77.4 in October. It’s the first time in four months that its been above 80. A reading below 80 for future expectations historically signals a recession within a year.

The survey’s write-in responses indicated that rising prices are still consumers’ top concern, while worries over interest rates and geopolitical conflicts declined.

Consumers’ view of current conditions also jumped this month, to 148.5, from 136.5 in November.

The survey also showed modest increases in consumers’ intent to purchase homes, autos, appliances and spend on vacations.

Americans unexpectedly picked up their spending at retailers from October to November as the unofficial holiday season kicked off, underscoring the power of shoppers despite elevated prices. Retail sales rose 0.3%, in November from October, when sales fell 0.2%, according to the Commerce Department.

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