Consumer Sentiment Brightens a Bit in October

Shaking off deep gloom triggered by the Sept. 11 attacks and mounting job layoffs, Americans dug in their heels and grew more optimistic about prospects for the future, pushing up consumer sentiment in October, market sources said on Friday. 

The University of Michigan's final October consumer sentiment index rose to 82.7 from 81.8 in September, matching analysts' forecasts. A preliminary reading, released mid-month, was 83.4. 

Rising confidence is a harbinger of improved consumer spending, which underpins about two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, although economists warn it is difficult to use as a tool to accurately forecast future consumption. 

The expectations index, which tracks consumers' attitudes about the coming year, rose to 75.5 in October from 73.5 in September. The preliminary reading was 77.9. The current conditions index, which gauges Americans' views of their present financial situation, fell to 94.0 in October from 94.6 in September. The mid-month reading was 92.1. 

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey is based on roughly 500 telephone interviews with Americans across the country. The mid-month reading captures roughly 250 of that month-end total.