Consumers, businesses give U.S. economy a pre-holiday lift

The latest batch of government data suggests that the U.S. economy is improving just as the holiday shopping season begins. The only threat is a package of huge spending cuts and tax increases that will kick in unless Congress strikes a budget deal by year’s end.

By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER and MARTIN CRUTSINGER Published: November 28, 2012
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WASHINGTON — American consumers are growing more confident about the job market, companies are ordering more equipment, and home prices are rising in most major cities.

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Confidence may continue to rise

A resolution of issues involved with the fiscal cliff, as most economists expect, likely would raise business and consumer confidence even further. Reports Tuesday showed:

•The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose to 73.7 in November from 73.1 in October. Both are the best readings since February 2008. The index is still below 90, the level that is consistent with a healthy economy. It last reached that point in December 2007, the first month of the Great Recession. But the index has increased from the all-time low of 25.3 touched in February 2009.

•The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller 20-city index of home prices rose 3 percent in September compared with the same month last year. Prices also gained 3.6 percent in the July-September quarter compared with the same quarter in 2011. Prices increased in 18 of 20 cities over the 12-month period.

•Companies ordered more industrial machinery and other large equipment in October. Orders for core capital goods, considered a proxy for business investment, rose 1.7 percent in October, the Commerce Department said. That’s the largest increase since May and it follows sharp declines over the summer.

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