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Thu., July 31, 2008

Amid the gloom of higher gas and food prices and a slumping housing market, Americans appear to be looking for a bit of hope.

Their outlook has brightened a bit, even though they remain the gloomiest they’ve been about the economy in 16 years, a private research group said this week.

The New York-based Conference Board said that its Consumer Confidence Index stands at 51.9 for July – about half of what it was a year ago – but the reading was slightly higher than the revised 51.0 in June and better than the reading of 50 predicted by economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR.

The improvement, which economists say was helped by a little relief in oil prices in recent weeks, also reverses a six-month slide.

The Expectations Index, which measures shoppers’ outlook over the next six months, increased a bit to 43.0 from 41.4. The Present Situation Index, which measures their current assessment of the economy, was virtually flat at 65.3, compared with 65.4 in June.

The Consumer Confidence report – derived from responses received through July 22 of a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households – also showed that consumers’ worries about business conditions and jobs aren’t going away.

Those saying jobs are “hard to get” edged up to 30.3 percent from 29.7 percent in June, while those claiming jobs are “plentiful” declined to 13.5 percent from 14.1 percent.

Results from a recent Harris Poll of 1,329 U.S. adults showed that seven in 10 rated the economic policies of the national government as bad. Also, almost half said their household’s financial condition had worsened, while three in 10 said it had improved.

Looking ahead six months, optimism about the future was low: Two in five Americans believe their household’s financial situation will worsen, the Harris Poll found.

When it comes to jobs, half said the job market in their region was bad, while three in 10 said it was good.

From wire reports


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