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Ups and Downs.

RECENT ECONOMIC FIGURES, like so many that have come out this year, fail to show if the slowdown is beginning to turn around or if things will get worse before they get better.

The latest news is that American consumers are losing confidence--and that's certainly not a good sign since consumer spending has been a key factor in keeping the economy from recession.

Consumer confidence has declined for a second successive month. And government figures show a decline in personal spending in spite of a lump in personal income.

Other bad news:

* The percentage of Americans behind on mortgage payments increased during the second quarter.

* Job layoffs have risen more than 80 percent from a year ago;

* New personal bankruptcies are up 24.5 percent from last year; business bankruptcies are up 8.8 percent;

* The stock market has lost billions of dollars in value;

* More people are carrying balances on their credit cards; and

* Many already are predicting a less-than-merry Christmas season as consumers grow cautious.

So, does this mean hard times are ahead?

It's still hard to tell, considering the following good news:

* Manufacturing declined for the 13th consecutive month in August, but it was at a far slower rate;

* Both production and new orders improved and racked up impressive growth after a long decline;

* Revised figures for the second quarter showed the GDP grew at an annual rate of 0.2 percent -- modest but better than most economists predicted.

* Housing sales remain strong; which further boosts consumer spending on appliances and furniture.

Neither good nor bad is the news that a significant percentage of Americans have put their tax rebates into savings or used it to pay down on bills instead of new spending.

So far, it has been the consumer who has kept the economy afloat. We can only hope that consumers can hold out until the long-awaited turnaround comes about.
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Title Annotation:American consumers are losing confidence
Comment:Ups and Downs.(American consumers are losing confidence)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 10, 2001
Previous Article:Puzzling Criticism.
Next Article:LETTER.

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