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Report shows upswing in consumer attitudes

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 25 2012 4:40 p.m. MDT

In this Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, photo, shoppers walk by stores at the Loop in Methuen, Mass. U.S. consumer confidence jumped this month to the highest level since February, bolstered by a brighter hiring outlook. The Conference Board said Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 70.3. That's up from 61.3 in August, which was revised higher. And it's the highest reading since February, when the economy added 259,000 jobs.

Elise Amendola, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — Consumer confidence in the Utah economy is definitely on the upswing, according to a new report.

The Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index jumped significantly from August to September, rising 8.1 points to 85 — its highest level since April. Nationally, the U.S. Consumer Confidence Index also climbed in September by nine points to 70.3 — a difference between the two indices of 14.7 points.

After three months of relative stability, the Utah index experienced a significant jump in September, said Randy Shumway, chief executive officer of the Cicero Group.

"The end of summer has traditionally been a time of economic optimism for consumers, as the Utah index revealed last year when it increased by 10.9 points from August to September of 2011," Shumway explained. "But the recovering housing, labor and stock markets also contributed heavily to this month's rebound. Even modest increases in home values, the stock prices and employment rates can positively affect consumer confidence."

He said consumer confidence rose in most Consumer Attitude Index categories. Additionally, the Zions Bank Present Situation Index — an assessment of confidence in current business and employment conditions — jumped 11.4 points to 69.3. The Zions Bank Expectations Index — an estimate of consumer confidence in the economy six months from now — increased six points to 95.6.

The 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 4.4 percent.

Consumer demand and consumer confidence is up pretty significantly in September both in Utah as well as nationally, Shumway said. There are also various other indicators that the economy is rebounding, albeit slowly, this year, he added.

"Unemployment is improving, the stock market is improving, consumer spending is improving," Shumway said. "Fourth, the housing sector particularly in Utah is improving and quantitative easing — monetary policy used by central banks to stimulate the national economy when conventional monetary policy has become ineffective — is showing signs of having an impact.”

He said current trends indicate that the economy should start to show even greater progress beginning in 2013.

E-mail: jlee@desnews.com Twitter: JasenLee1

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