- THE MAGAZINE
NEW YORK -- A University of Michigan study shows U.S. consumer confidence rose for a third straight month in December.
The report closely watched a consumer sentiment index climb to 88.8 in December from 83.9 in November, according to market sources, beating forecasts of 85.7 and ahead of the index's September low of 81.8. The preliminary reading, released mid-month, was 85.8.
Still, the Michigan sentiment index is down sharply from a peak of 112.0 in early 2000, but over the past three months has clawed most of its way back to where it was before the devastating Sept. 11 attacks. The sentiment index stood at 91.5 in August.
Consumer spending, while not likely to contract in the fourth quarter, will remain sluggish as most Americans expect the 5.7 percent jobless rate to climb more.
The University of Michigan's current conditions index gauges consumers' attitudes about their present financial situation. It edged up to 99.0 in December from 95.3 in November, with a preliminary December reading of 95.9. The expectations index tracks consumer attitudes about the next 12 months. It spiked to 82.3 in December from 76.6 in November. The preliminary December reading was 79.3.