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Consumers’ Moods Improve in August

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By Greg Robb

RISMEDIA, September 1, 2009—(MCT)-U.S. consumer sentiment improved in late August, but not quite enough to exceed the reading from July, according to a survey released by the University of Michigan and Reuters.

Sentiment rose to a revised 65.7 from a reading of 63.2 in early August, but was slightly down from the July reading of 66.0. This is the second straight monthly decline in sentiment. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch were expecting consumer sentiment to rise slightly to 64.0.

The preliminary August reading was the lowest since March 2009. Analysts thought the drop overstated the concerns about economic conditions- large job losses, weak income growth, falling house prices, rising energy prices, and too much debt remain pressing concerns for consumers, analysts said. As a result, consumers have the grimmest assessment of their personal finances since the Great Depression, said Richard Curtin, the director of the Reuters survey. Spending is expected to remain in low gear, Curtin added.

Just 16% of all consumers reported that their finances had improved in August, the smallest proportion since the question was first asked in 1946. The current conditions index fell to 66.6 in August from 70.5 in July. The expectations index rose to 65.0 in August from 63.2 in the prior month. In a separate report, the Commerce Department said consumer spending increased 0.2% last month, while incomes were unchanged.

(c) 2009, MarketWatch.com Inc.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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