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Thomson Reuters/U of Michigan shows climbing consumer confidence

New York City -- The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment showed Friday that confidence among U.S. consumers rose more than forecast in December as Americans’ outlooks improved. 

The index rose to 67.7, a six-month high, from 64.1 at the end of November. The median estimate of 73 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a reading of 65.8. The gauge averaged 89 in the five years leading up to the recession that began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. 

“Spending has held in there and consumers’ negative attitudes have improved,” Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in Pittsburgh, told Bloomberg. “Consumers started the holiday season strong and it looks like they will end it decently.” 

The Michigan survey’s index of consumer expectations for six months from now, which more closely projects the direction of consumer spending, climbed to 61.1 from 55.4. 

The index of current conditions, which reflects Americans’ perceptions of their financial situation and whether they consider it a good time to buy big-ticket items like cars, increased to 77.9 from 77.6 the prior month. 

The Michigan index compares with the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index which was minus 50.3 in the week ended Dec. 4, down from minus 50.2 a week earlier. The measure has been at minus 50 or less for 11 of the past 12 weeks, a performance unprecedented in its 26-year history. 

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