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Consumer confidence rises to second-highest level since 2000


US consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in April to the second-highest level since 2000 as Americans grew more upbeat about both current conditions and the economic outlook, according to figures on Tuesday from the New York-based Conference Board.

Confidence index rose to 128.7 from 127 in March with the present conditions measure advancing to 159.6 from 158.1. The Consumer expectations gauge rose to 108.1 from 106.2.

A bigger share of respondents expect to purchase big-ticket items including cars and major appliances within six months, while a record 7.8 per cent of respondents said they plan to buy a home.

That will support both consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, as well as housing prices that are already handily outpacing wage gains amid tight supplies.

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At the same time, the April report from the Conference Board showed the labour differential - which measures the gap between respondents saying jobs are plentiful and those who say they're hard to get - narrowed to 22.9 percentage points, a three-month low.

Bigger after-tax pay cheques and a still-strong job market - with the lowest unemployment rate since 2000 - are helping to sustain sentiment. The latest results contrast with other signs that consumer and business confidence measures, while still fairly high, are coming off the lofty levels seen in the past year.

"Confidence levels remain strong and suggest that the economy will continue expanding at a solid pace in the months ahead," Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement.

"Consumers' assessment of current conditions improved somewhat, with consumers rating both business and labour market conditions quite favourably," she added. "Consumers' short-term expectations also improved, with the percent of consumers expecting their incomes to decline over the coming months reaching its lowest level since December 2000."

An estimated 24.5 per cent of consumers said they expect better business conditions in the next six months, compared with 23.2 per cent in March.

The share of households who expect incomes to fall in the next six months decreased to 6.8 per cent, the lowest since 2000, from 7.2 per cent; those expecting an increase were little changed at 23.1 per cent. The number of people who said more jobs will be available in coming months was 19.5 per cent after 18.9 per cent.

The data, however, did little to impact the US financial markets which saw major equity indexes turning in mixed performances as a decline in Alphabet Inc shares weighed on investor sentiment with the earnings season gathering pace. BLOOMBERG

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