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Consumer Confidence Unchanged

December 29, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Consumers’ confidence in the economy was steady in December, after rebounding in November from a four-month slide.

The Conference Board reported today its index of consumer confidence fell a marginal 0.5 point to 126.1 from a revised 126.5 in November, when it increased for the first time since June.

Consumers’ comfort level is an important economic indicator since their spending accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s overall economic activity.

Consumers were moderately more positive in about the current state of the economy than they were in November, but the modest dip was caused by a decline in expectations for the economy six months from now, according to the Conference Board, a New York-based, business-financed private research group that compiles its index from a survey of consumers nationwide.

``Consumers are still relatively optimistic about the economy,″ said Lynn Franco, associate director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center. ``The key to strong confidence levels has been a healthy economy, and the conditions fueling this expansion show no indication of dissipating any time soon.″

Americans did show some caution during the Christmas shopping season, looking for bargains and leaving some retailers disappointed with their sales. Discount chains such as Wal-Mart and Target oudid traditional department stores by offering consumers the values they were seeking.

A concern voiced by consumers in the conference board survey was employment. In December, consumers were somewhat less optimistic about the availability of job opportunities over the next six months.

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