Economy Americans confident in April Economy at critical juncture

NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans' confidence in the economy held steady in April from the previous month despite rising job cuts and falling home values.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said on Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index is at 69.2, down slightly from a revised 69.5 in March. Economists were expecting a reading of 70, according to a FactSet poll of analysts. The current level is below February's 71.6, which is the highest level it's been in a year.

Consumer confidence is widely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The current level is significantly below the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy. But it's well above its all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009.

"Consumer confidence was virtually unchanged in April, following a modest decline in March," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a statement. "Overall, consumers are more upbeat about the state of the economy, but they remain cautiously optimistic."

Economists are paying close attention to consumers' behavior because the U.S. economy is at a critical juncture. New reports that show rising layoffs and slowing home sales are raising concerns that the economic recovery is facing a spring slowdown for the third straight year. The stock market rally also has lost steam in recent weeks amid renewed worries about the European financial crisis and the economy at home.

Published: Thu, May 17, 2012

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