Survey says consumers facing less trouble


ChartAnd as a result, they are more confident heading into both the 2012 election and the holidays. The Consumer Report Trouble Tracker enjoyed a benevolent double digit decline and confidence edged into positive territory.

When the Trouble Tracker declines, that’s good, and this month it fell 11.5 points to 38.7, it’s lowest point since CR began the survey in April 2009. Meanwhile, Consumer Sentiment improved to 50.7, buoyed  by gains among those households earning $100K or better (59.7). However, even the $50K and less group improved (48.2).

“There is reason for optimism this month, with financial difficulties in decline and sentiment moving upward. These are very heartening signs for retailers, especially as we get into the all-important holiday shopping season,” said Ed Farrell, director of consumer insight at the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Employment also edged into positive territory, to 51.5, up from 49.7. The improvement was the result of fewer people losing jobs and more beginning them during the survey period.

“Job losses fell sharply and more Americans started versus lost jobs. However job starts remain at relatively low levels. Continued progress will hinge on increasing job starts over the coming months to sustain gains,” Farrell said.

CR says consumer spending is expected to pick up this month, particularly in those categories associated with holiday gift-giving.

Not everything was positive, however. Planned spending for new cars and homes was down, and the level of stress being felt rose slightly, mainly among lower-income households. Planned spending for used car was up.