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Consumer confidence retreated slightly in October

In this  Oct. 1, 2015, file photo, a “Help Wanted” sign hangs in a store window in New York. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
In this Oct. 1, 2015, file photo, a “Help Wanted” sign hangs in a store window in New York. (Mark Lennihan / Associated Press)
By Martin Crutsinger Associated Press

WASHINGTON – American consumers felt less confident this month, but the small retreat came after confidence had risen to a 20-month high in September.

Consumer confidence slipped to 98.6 this month after rising to 103.5 in September, the Conference Board reported Tuesday. The September reading was the highest since confidence stood at 103.8 in January 2015. The September confidence number was revised down from an initial estimate of 104.1, which had been the highest in nine years.

The lower October reading reflected a drop in consumers’ assessment of current business conditions and employment prospects.

Even with the small decline, consumer confidence was still at a level expected to support consumer spending and economic growth in coming months.

The October decline reflected decreases in both consumers’ view about current conditions and their future expectations.

The number of consumers saying business conditions at present were “good” decreased moderately from 27.7 percent to 26.2 percent while those saying business conditions were “bad” rose from 15.8 percent to 17.7 percent.

Their assessment of the labor market was also less positive, with those believing jobs were “plentiful” dropping from 27.6 percent to 24.3 percent although those who believed jobs were “hard to get” declined slightly to 22.1 percent from 22.3 percent in September.

Economists said the October decline puts the Conference Board’s take on confidence more in line with other confidence readings, including the University of Michigan survey.

“We read the October data as suggesting that household confidence has corrected after the outsized increase in the previous month,” Blerina Uruci of Barclays said in a research note.

Andrew Hunter, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said the October reading from the Conference Board was still consistent with solid growth in consumer spending at an annual rate above 2.5 percent.

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