US Consumer Confidence Rises

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Photo: AP A worker sits atop some ironwork at the construction site of a new store at the Harvard Park Shopping Center in Warrensville Hts., December 7, 2011

A series of reports paint a mixed picture of the U.S. economy Tuesday, as consumer confidence rises, home prices fall, and an iconic retailer shuts a number of stores.

U.S. consumer confidence hit its highest level in eight months in December as the job market improved. Tuesday’s data comes from the Conference Board, a private research group in New York. Experts watch consumer confidence for clues about the consumer spending that drives most U.S. economic activity.


A separate report shows the U.S. home prices fell in most major cities for the second straight month. Weak job growth, tighter lending standards, and worries that home prices may fall further are deterring some prospective home buyers. The U.S. central bank has had only limited success in boosting home sales with record low interest rates.

The company that owns the Sears and Kmart stores says it will close more than 100 of its 4,000 locations. Sears was once a top U.S. retailer, but saw sales fall more than 5 percent this year, which is just the latest of several disappointing years. The parent company did not say how many jobs will be lost, but the value of the company’s stock plunged in Tuesday’s trading.

The U.S. government will come within $100 billion of its legal limit on borrowing later this week, and the president is expected to seek a $1.2 trillion increase in the debt limit.

That would raise the debt limit from just under $15.2 trillion, to a bit less than $16.4 trillion.

As part of the agreement that ended a huge political wrangle over the debt limit earlier this year, the limit will be increased unless both houses of Congress pass a bill blocking the action.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.