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Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Despite pressures, consumer confidence edges higher

December 27, 2007

thurs-checkout-line.jpgCheck Out U.S. consumer confidence climbing slightly in December despite the fact that many American consumers are becoming increasingly budget-conscious as they deal with higher food and fuel costs and the subprime mortgage crisis.

Economists and policy makers are keeping a close eye on consumer spending — which is increasingly being viewed as the last line of defense for an economy that some fear is sliding into a recession.

The Conference Board on Thursday said its index of consumer sentiment crept up to 88.6 in December from a revised 87.8 last month. The media forecast among economists polled by Reuters was for a reading of 86.5.

But despite the climb, consumers aren’t seeing the U.S. economy through rose-colored glasses.

“While consumers are less negative about the near-term future, they remain far from optimistic,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center.

“In fact, assessing the current job market, pessimists now outnumber optimists.”

Also in the basket:

Holiday spending raises recession flag (Reuters)

Deals lure shoppers (Women’s Wear Daily, subscription required) 

Major retailers feel the squeeze from consumers (New York Times)

Gift cards may be stores’ only present (New York Post)

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