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The New Economy

US consumer outlook improves

The dramatic jump in Americans' confidence from 26.9 to 39.2 outpaces improvements in other countries.

By / April 28, 2009

A Costco shopper in Mountain View, Calif., fills her cart. Consumer confidence in April improved dramatically, the Conference Board reported Tuesday, although the level remains quite negative.

Paul Sakuma/AP

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Americans' pessimism about the economy abated dramatically this month, as consumer confidence bounced back to its second-highest reading in the last seven months, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.

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The upturn from 26.9 in March to 39.2 in April is still quite low by historic standards. But if the improvement continues, it suggests that US consumers could be among the first to see a lessening of the global economic funk. By contrast, the latest readings in consumer sentiment in most key economies shows far less change.

In Japan, for example, consumer confidence turned up only slightly in March from lows not seen since at least 1982. In Germany, confidence was unchanged, market researcher GfK reported Monday. Italy, by contrast, saw its highest reading since December 2007. The EU will report its regional findings on Wednesday.

Compared with six months ago, the outlook remains gloomy. Of 50 countries, only Indonesia and Denmark had a positive outlook, according to a survey released last week by the Nielsen Company. The survey, based on a poll of 25,000 Internet users in March and April, fell to 77 from 84 six months ago. Any reading below 100 is considered negative.

India, Brazil, and Russia saw double-digit drops, pushing all of them below 100. Russia experienced the most spectacular fall of the 50 nations, down 29 points to 75. Despite its 15-point decline, India remained at an almost optimistic 99. China, which saw an 8-point decline, stood at 89. The US was at 80. South Korea was the most pessimistic of all at 31.

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