Top consumer watchdog sees confidence on the rise


Reports on the economic confidence levels of various groups are everywhere, and sometimes one can get the impression that questions might edge the results toward the good side in hopes of generating a self-fulfilling prophecy. We suspect that is not the case when Consumer Reports reports on consumer confidence. CR sees it on the upswing, and that is something US businesses have just got to love.

In fact, CR says that consumer sentiment is at its highest level since October 2008. It scored a big jump in January 2011 over the previous month, moving from 45.1 to 48.7, and its year-over-year improvement is even better, coming from a 44.1 starting point.

“Some of the rise can be attributed to the seasonal January jump, but not all of it. Overall, consumers are feeling better about their financial situation and hopefully this will translate into increased economic engagement in 2011 if this trend continues,” said Ed Farrell, a director of the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

The report is not without its downside. CR’s Trouble Tracker index, which measures financial challenges facing consumers, rose from November (49.3) to December (52.7) to the current level of 54.2. But that number is down significantly from a year ago, when it stood at 58.2.

On the other hand, an extreme positive is a significant decrease in consumer stress, now at 55.4. This is significantly down from December’s 60.8 reading, and light years better than a year ago, when it was an alarming 69.0.

RBR-TVBR observation: Here’s the unscientific but logical reason why we lend extra credence to this report. A consumer advocacy is not going to gloss over negative results when surveying its constituency – to the contrary, it will sound the alarm and seek whatever remedies may be available if the results are in any way unsatisfactory. So when a consumer advocacy sees signs of positive economic movement, we think that the vision has legs.