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Utahns more optimistic than the nation as consumer attitudes remain steady

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 28 2012 3:28 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah consumers show little change in their economic outlook.

The Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index for Utah increased slightly to 76.9 in August, up 0.3 points higher than July. In contrast, the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index decreased in August, falling 4.8 points to 60.6.

Utahns remain more optimistic than the rest of the country, but economic stagnation nationally and internationally has kept consumer confidence in check, said Randy Shumway, CEO of The Cicero Group.

He said decreasing gasoline prices were tempered this month by increasing housing prices, which rose for the seventh consecutive month — up 0.5 percent in July.

“It’s a very positive indicator for a rebound in our overall economy,” he said.

Consumer confidence in the present situation stayed constant from July to August at 57.9. Sixty-one percent of Utahns believe that general business conditions in their area are “normal,” which represents the largest proportion since Zions Bank began tracking this metric in January of 2011, a news release states.

Confidence in future conditions increased by 0.5 points, from 89.1 to 89.6. Stability in Utah’s labor market has instilled confidence in consumers, but Utahns are showing signs of concern around inflation and increasing interest rates, Shumway said.

“We have increased jobs by 30,000 over the past 12 months,” he said. “The housing market is (the foundation) that is beginning to elevate the economy throughout the state of Utah.”

The Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index is based on a representative sample of 500 Utah households. The monthly survey is conducted by The Cicero Group/Dan Jones & Associates and has a confidence interval of plus or minus 4.38 percent at a 95 percent confidence level. The Utah index data is compared to both Utah data and U.S. data from previous months to identify key consumer sentiment trends in the state.

The Zions Bank Present Situation Index — which tracks confidence in current business and employment conditions — remained unchanged at 57.9 in August, compared to a 0.1 decrease nationally. Sixty-one percent of Utahns perceived the general business conditions in their area as “normal,” a higher percentage than any other time in the past two years. Unfortunately, the proportion of consumers that view business conditions as “good” — 22 percent — is smaller than it has been since November 2011.

The Zions Bank Expectations Index — which measures consumer confidence in the economy six months from now — increased 0.5 points last month to 89.6, compared to a 7.9 point decrease nationally. The Expectations Index hit a 16-month high in February, but consumer attitudes toward the economic outlook have soured over the last six months, Shumway said.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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