STATE OF BUSINESS: Consumer Optimism

How is the U.S. consumer reacting to the recovery? This week the University of Michigan's Consumer Attitude Survey reported consumer optimism up sharply, though not so much as after the 1953-54 recession. More secure in their personal income, consumers are now planning stepped-up purchases, particularly in housing and household goods. Department-store sales, already equal to 1957, reflected this. While rising prices on new cars brought some sales resistance, consumers were swinging to the buy side on both new and used cars.

Auto sales gave a concrete demonstration of the changing consumer...

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