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US consumers mired in Covid gloom, but see better days ahead

·2-min read
People walk through the usually bustling midtown area of Manhattan during lunchtime on January 25, 2021 in New York City

US consumers are pessimistic about the state of the economy as it weathers the Covid-19 pandemic's tough winter months, but see things getting better soon, a survey said Tuesday.

The Conference Board reported its January consumer confidence index was at 89.3, increasing slightly more than expected from its 87.1 level in December.

"Consumers' appraisal of present-day conditions weakened further in January, with Covid-19 still the major suppressor," The Conference Board's Senior Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco said.

"Consumers' expectations for the economy and jobs, however, advanced further, suggesting that consumers foresee conditions improving in the not-too-distant future."

The present situation index measuring consumers' views on current business and employment conditions fell about three points to 84.4, but their views on the economy's future rose 5.5 points to 92.5.

Consumers gave few positive reviews of the current economy, with only a small improvement in those describing business conditions as "good" while those saying they were "bad" rose more than three percentage points to 42.8 percent.

There was also a slight decline in people saying jobs were "plentiful," but those describing employment as "hard to get" rose to 23.8 percent, almost a full point.

Referring to Congress's recent moves to offer stimulus checks and other support measures to Americans, Kathy Bostjancic of Oxford Economics said, "the prospect of further fiscal aid might lift consumers' attitudes, but overall confidence and spending levels will be constrained until the vaccines help achieve herd immunity."

However, the survey also made clear that consumers have a rosy outlook for the months to come, with those expecting more jobs in the next six months rising more than three points to 31.3 percent.

Consumers expecting an improvement in business conditions climbed to 33.7 percent, an increase of more than four points.

cs/dw