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Consumer confidence ticked up modestly in November, according to the Conference Board, a New York-based research organization, rising to a reading of 73.7 this month from an upwardly revised 73.1 in October. Initially, the October figure had been estimated at 72.2. Note that the cutoff data for inclusion in this survey was November 13th.

Meanwhile, the Present Situations Index, which tends to be less ebullient than the aggregate index, was virtually unchanged at 56.6 in November. A month before that component had stood at 56.7. By comparison, the Expectations Index, which is the more optimistic component, as it reflects the situation down the road, rose to 85.1 from 84.0 in October.

According to Lynn Franco, the Director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board, "The Consumer Confidence Index increased in November and is now at its highest level in more than four and a half years.''

This better showing seems consistent with the overall numbers being issued by the government and private-sector forecasting agencies for the economy at large. To wit, we saw a steady reading in durable goods orders issued this morning, but with a slight upward bias for nondefense capital goods orders, a key indicator of capital spending within the economy. Also, at the same time as the Confidence Index was released, the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency issued data showing that home prices rose last month, and are up by better than 4% over the past year. 

What was especially impressive about the confidence report was that it came in spite of a sharp reversal among households hit by the late-October ravages of Hurricane Sandy. Specifically, the Conference Board breaks down its survey by region. Here, residents in the Middle Atlantic states, which were hardest hit by Sandy, turned notably more negative about their economic situations.

That setback in the eastern states, notwithstanding, this report was a generally decent one and is consistent with the aggregate outlook for the coming months, which suggests that the nation's maturing business expansion will continue, with the obvious caveat regarding the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts, which would take effect on January 2, 2013 unless Congress and the White House can reach a compromise deal. In the absence of such a compromise, confidence levels would logically drop, and perhaps appreciable.

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.