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March Consumer Reports Index sign of economic improvement


YONKERS, N.Y.-- In another positive sign for the economy, the March Consumer Reports Index reveals its most positive results in two years.

According to Consumer Reports National Research Center, which conducts the survey,the Consumer Sentiment Index has broken into positive territory at 50.3, which is up from 48.7 a month ago. This is the first time sentiment has been in positive territory since it was first measured in October 2008.

Driving the gain in consumer sentiment, the Consumer Reports Trouble Tracker Index, which is the measure of the financial difficulties faced by consumers, fell sharply to 44.8, down nearly 10 points from the prior month (58.7). The Trouble Tracker Index is now at its lowest level since it was first reported in April 2008. Declines were evident for a wide range of reported financial difficulties in the past 30 days.

The Consumer Reports Stress Index, a measure of the stress consumers feel in their everyday lives versus a year ago, is also down slightly in March to 58.7 from 59.3 the prior month, though it is up from the prior year (57.7). The survey results about consumer spending still have not shown the same optimism.

"The March index provides the most encouraging results that we have seen since we started the index more than two years ago," said Ed Farrell, a director of the Consumer Reports National Research Center. "Consumers may be feeling that they are finally makes strides in the right direction when it comes to their financial well-being."

After remaining locked at 49.2 for the past three months, the Consumer Reports Employment Index is up slightly to 49.7, and is also up versus one year ago (48.7). Weak job growth remains the core problem with employment. The improvement in the Employment Index this month was the result of a drop in job losses in the past 30 days (5.3%) versus the prior month (6.7%); however job creation remains weak, with 4.6% starting a new job in the past 30 days, down slightly from the prior month (5.2%).

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