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More optimism, or less pessimism?




The University of Michigan's May Index of Consumer Confidence turned out to be much higher than expected (79.3 vs. 77.8), and the headline sounded breathless: "Consumer confidence rose in May to the highest level since October 2007 as Americans became more upbeat about the prospects for employment."

I think there is another way to interpret this. Rather than seeing the rise in confidence as a sign of growing confidence in the future, I see it as a sign that Americans are become somewhat less concerned about the future. After all, the May reading was similar to or even lower than what we have seen during several past recessions. In other words, for most of the period from 1983 through 2006, a reading of 79.3 would have been considered shockingly low. Optimism is still in very short supply these days.

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