Consumer Confidence Reports Reach Opposite Conclusions

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According to Associated Press economics writer Chrstopher S. Rugaber, "Consumer sentiment rose more than expected in August and expectations hit the highest level since the recession began, indications that Americans' pessimism about the economy may be lifting."

Rugaber cites findings from the New York-based Conference Board that show the Consumer Confidence index rose to 54.1 from an upwardly revised 47.4 in July. Economists had expected a slight increase to 47.5.

That seems to fly in the face of a new report by Manhattan Beach-based Financial Finesse, which says that even though Wall Street sees signs of recovery, "Main Street isn't exactly buying it."

"Above all right now, American consumers are financially stressed," says Liz Davidson,
founder and CEO of Financial Finesse, which provides "unbiased" financial education to more than 400 organizations nationwide. "We're seeing employees' financial stress reaching serious levels that we need to be concerned about."   
 
Her company's report is based on calls that come into its financial helpline as well as online usage of its financial planning platform. An overwhelming 98 percent of employees who used the company's online financial planning platform in the second quarter reported they are stressed about their finances, with 35 percent indicating their stress level is either high or overwhelming.

(The full Financial Finesse report is available here.)
   
Rugaber's AP report does indicate that the Consumer Confidence index is well below 90, the minimum level associated with a healthy economy, and that economists remain worried that without healthier consumer spending, the recovery may weaken next year.
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