US consumer confidence edges higher

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    WASHINGTON- US consumer confidence rose moderately in January while lingering concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic led to a further deterioration in households’ perceptions of the labor market, raising the risk of a second straight month of job losses.

    But the survey from the Conference Board showed consumers more than willing to buy homes and automobiles in the next six months, indicating that the housing market and manufacturing industry will continue to underpin the economy.

    “The slow rollout of the vaccines and the still-raging pandemic continue to depress consumer confidence  despite the prospect of furtherfiscal aid and a brighter health situation,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief US financial economist at Oxford Economics in New York.

    The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index increased to a reading of 89.3 this month from 87.1 in December.

    The slight gain likely reflected nearly $900 billion in additional pandemic relief provided by the government at the end of December, which lifted consumers’ near-term expectations.

    The was no indication that the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol by former President Donald Trump’s supporters had impacted on confidence. The cut-off date for the survey was Jan. 14. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index little changed at 89 in January.

    The survey’s present situation measure, based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions, fell to a reading of 84.4 from 87.2 in December. The expectations index based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions increased to 92.5 from a reading of 87.0 in December, suggesting households foresee conditions improving in the near term.