US Consumer Sentiment Edges Up, RBC CASH Index

US consumer confidence climbed this month according to the most recent results of the RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index. The survey found that consumer sentiment remained very low, but stable. As a result, the overall RBC

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US consumer confidence climbed this month according to the most recent results of the RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index.

The survey found that consumer sentiment remained very low, but stable. As a result, the overall RBC CASH Index stands at 8.2 for March 2009, up slightly from 1.6 in February, the lowest level on record since the inception of the Index in 2002.

Highlights of the survey results include:

-The RBC Current Conditions Index rallied to 14.8, up 13.2 points compared to February’s 1.6 record-low level. Currently, 35 per cent of Americans rate their personal finances as weak, down from 39% last month;

-Consumers’ overall opinions regarding investing also edged up this month. The RBC Investment Index, which was at 17.6 in February, currently stands at 24.6. Most of the increase in investment confidence stems from improvements in consumers’ financial conditions, although consumers are still anxious;

-With unemployment rates creeping to their highest levels in two decades, the RBC Jobs Index dropped to an all-time low of 40.8, down from 42.3 in February. The decline in American’s job security confidence is led by real experiences in job loss;

-Although still in negative territory, the RBC Expectations Index held steady in March, ticking up just 2.2 points to – 25.9, up from – 28.1 last month.

“Consumer confidence looks to be trying to find a bottom,” says Larry Miller, managing director, RBC Capital Markets. “The March improvement taken together with the stabilization of spending intentions we’ve seen in our restaurant and other consumer surveys and in the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) may suggest the consumer has dialed back its spending to a level that is reflective of the current macroeconomic realities. Holding these levels will be key to restoring investor confidence.”

L.D.

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