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Tuesday
Dec212010

Consumer Confidence: Cue the Holiday Cheer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A bit of holiday cheer arrived on cue this week: Boosted by a brightening outlook among Republicans, consumer confidence advanced to match its yearlong high.

The result follows last week's decline in economic pessimism, which fell to its lowest in six years. While it's hardly time to break out the bubbly, together the two mark the first better-than-bad results in consumer sentiment in a long while.

The ABC News Consumer Comfort Index (CCI), produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, has risen four points in the last two weeks to -41 on its scale of +100 to -100, five points above its 2010 average and nine points above its low for the year, last seen in early August. Nonetheless, the CCI is still far below its 25-year average, -14. And previous rallies have faltered: The index hasn’t risen above -40 since April 2008.

This week's results mark growing gaps in consumer sentiment among income and partisan groups, as well as by gender -- including a surge among Republicans celebrating their success in the 2010 Midterm Elections. The CCI is now -27 among Republicans, a two-year high -- up a dramatic 21 points since early October, up 11 points in three weeks, and 14 points above its 2010 average.

Among people with household incomes of more than $100,000 a year, the CCI is +11, staying in the black for the fourth week in a row and 15 points above this year's average.

The CCI stands at -27 among men -- nearly a three-year high and 13 points above the 2010 average -- while among women it's -55, its lowest since April. Although the index typically is higher among men, the current 28-point gap is its sharpest in three and a half years.

This gender difference likely is partially attributable to the rise in confidence among Republicans and the wealthy, two disproportionately male groups -- perhaps both celebrating the rising stock market and the continuation of Bush-era tax breaks for all income levels, as well as the GOP's re-taking control of the House of Representatives.

Democrats and those who make less than $50,000 a year are far less merry, with CCI readings of -49 and -62, respectively.

The index is based on Americans' views of the national economy, the buying climate, and their personal finances, and while none of the individual stats are particularly good, all have been worse in the recent past. Positive ratings of the economy and personal finances held steady this week, at 12 percent and 48 percent, respectively. Ratings of the buying climate improved slightly, with 28 percent calling it a good time to buy, a 10-week high -- just in time for the holidays.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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