America

Consumer Confidence At Three-Year High; But Home Prices Weaken Further

The widely watched Consumer Confidence Index from the private Conference Board rose to 70.4 this month from 64.8 in January, the business research group just reported.

Lynn Franco, director of the board's Consumer Research Center, says in a statement that the index "is now at a three-year high (Feb. 2008, 76.4), due to growing optimism about the short-term future. Consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions has improved moderately, but still remains rather weak. Looking ahead, consumers are more positive about the economy and their income prospects, but feel somewhat mixed about employment conditions."

Since U.S. consumers purchase about 70 percent of all goods and services the economy produces, how they're feeling is a key barometer of how well the economy will be doing in coming months.

The morning's other economic news, though, may not make many consumers feel better in coming months. The S&P/Case-Shiller National Home Price Index fell 3.9 percent in fourth-quarter 2010. And home prices, S&P's David Blitzer says, are now close to "their 2009 troughs."

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