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Consumer Reports Index: Americans' sentiment improved as financial difficulties declined

Consumer Reports Index: Americans’ sentiment improved as financial difficulties declined

Consumer sentiment climbed back to positive territory this month, and financial troubles continued a four-month decline, according to the Consumer Reports Index, an overall measure of Americans’ personal financial health.

The monthly Index comprises five measures: Employment, Retail, Sentiment, Stress, and the Trouble Tracker.

Consumer sentiment rose across all income segments to 50.7 from 48.9 a month earlier, and the trouble tracker measure stands at 38.8, near its all-time low of 38.7 in November 2012. In addition, the level of stress that consumers feel was unchanged from last month, at 56.1.

The employment measure crept up to 49.9 from 49.4, as job losses fell to 4.3 percent from 5.5 percent. Job gains in the past 30 days (4.2 percent) were unchanged.

Retailers may not have seen the impact of these positive signs, however. Despite improvements elsewhere, retail has continued to slide since January. The past 30-day retail measure is now at 9.9, below both last month (10.5) and last year at this time (11.5).

“The long view shows the amount of financial hardship Americans are facing has improved greatly from the dire days of two years ago, but that has yet to translate into robust levels of retail spending for 2013,” says Ed Farrell, director of consumer insight at the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

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The Consumer Reports Index, a monthly telephone poll of a nationally representative sample of Americans, is conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. A total of 1,005 interviews February 28 to March 3. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Previously: Consumer Reports Index: Middle-income Americans report increase in financial troubles

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