The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index inched up slightly less than 1% in December, reversing a series of declines since the summer.
The index rose to 88.6 from 87.8 in November, but the companion "Present Situation" index dropped to 108.3 from 115.7 in November. The "Expectations" index, based on perceptions of whether business conditions will improve or erode during the next six months, rose to 75.5 from 69.1 but still remains in a range that concerns Conference Board economists.
"While consumers are less negative about the near-term future, they remain far from optimistic," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Furthermore, persistent declines in the Present Situation Index indicate the economy is still losing momentum. In fact, in assessing the current job market, pessimists now outnumber optimists. Regarding business conditions, the gap between the two is almost nonexistent."
Consumers claiming conditions are "good" decreased to 20.3% from 22.5%; those terming them "bad" increased to 20.0% from 18.9%. Those saying jobs are "hard to get" rose to 23.5% from 21.4%, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" declined to 22.7% from 23.3% in November.
Consumers expecting business conditions to worsen in the next six months decreased to 14.1% from 16.6%. Those anticipating business conditions to improve increased to 13.8% from 12.4%. The longer-term outlook for the labor market was also less pessimistic, with 11.2% expecting more jobs in the months ahead compared to 10.6% in November and those expecting fewer jobs falling from 22.8% in November to 19.9% in December. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase in the months ahead decreased to 19.0% from 19.4%.