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Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Holiday wishes for a better economy

December 30, 2008

Check out samsantaAmericans, fed up with financial doom, who are wishing for a cheerier economy in 2009.

The Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York, polled 1,003 Americans about their expectations for 2009 on December 9 and 10 — days after the National Bureau of Economic Research confirmed the United States had been mired in a recession since December 2007 — and found that Americans are optimistic that 2009 will be a better year.

Expectations for a brighter future were higher among younger generations, with 64 percent of those under 45 having an optimistic view compared with 52 percent for those 45 or older.

Meanwhile, the sentiment is decidedly sad.

Hefty job losses are contributing to year-end gloom in the United States, where consumer confidence hit a record low in December — a month that is traditionally marked by spending splurges on Christmas and other holiday gifts.

“The overall economic outlook remains quite dismal for the first half of 2009, and only a modest recovery is expected in the second half,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center.

Employers slashed more than a half million jobs in November alone, the most in 34 years, and layoffs continued in December. Paying off debt and cutting spending is the new fashion as consumers brace for the worst.

That shift to thrift is evident in U.S. holiday retail sales, which were the worst since at least 1970 due to a year-long economic slump, heavy discounting and harsh winter weather just before Christmas, the International Council of Shopping Centers said.

To top it all off, there is more bad news from the beleaguered housing market.

Prices of U.S. single-family homes in October plunged a record 18 percent from a year earlier, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

Also in the basket:

Consumer confidence and home prices hit grim records

Global growth seen weak as lending stagnates

Oil falls below $39 on grim economic outlook

(Photo\Reuters)

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