U.S. consumer confidence rose to its highest level in six months, adding to transportation providers’ hopes that strong holiday sales will increase inventory restocking.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey’s preliminary December reading for consumer sentiment came in at 74.2, up from 71.6 in November as consumers cited more favorable news about employment.
The unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in October and is expected to remain above 9 percent through most of 2011, but weekly data show new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week and the four-week moving average slipped to a two-year low.
By The Numbers: U.S. Retail Inventory to Sales Ratio.
The survey's barometer of current economic conditions rose to its highest reading since January 2008. The index for December came in at 85.7, up from 82.1 in November.
The sentiment survey was taken before the Obama administration and lawmakers reached a tentative deal on extended tax cuts this week. The survey’s compilers cited widespread expectation the cuts would be extended and say confidence could fall again if the cuts are blocked.
Retailers have reported stronger holiday sales so far. IHS Global Insight forecasts that holiday retail sales, excluding autos, gasoline, food and non-store sales, will be up 4.5 percent from last year in November and December.
With retail inventories still tight, transportation carriers hope stores will have to place new orders to replenish stockpiles during the normally slack winter shipping season.
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