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Interest-rate cuts and, more importantly, anticipation of a federal-tax rebate gave consumer confidence the kind of shot in the arm economists had been waiting for since the first quarter. The percentage seeing current business conditions as "good" rose to 30.7% in May from a low of 28.2% in April, and those seeing conditions as "worse" dropped to 11.8% from 13.2%. One negative: 39.5% said jobs were plentiful, down from 40.1%.

Expectations for the next six months

Dec. Jan. Feb. March April May

Economy

Better 16.9% 13.1% 11.3% 15.1% 14.1% 16.8%

Worse 10.1% 15.2% 17.6% 13.7% 14.5% 13.5%

Same 73% 71.7% 71.1% 71.2% 71.4% 69.7%

Jobs

More 14% 11.7% 10.8% 12.2% 12.3% 13.8%

Fewer 15.7% 21.5% 26.6% 20.4% 22.9% 19.9%

Same 70.3% 66.8% 62.7% 67.4% 64.8% 66.3%

Incomes

Higher 28.3% 24.1% 23.9% 23.4% 22.7% 24.6%

Lower 6.0% 6.8% 7.5% 7.0% 7.7% 7.5%

Same 65.7% 69.1% 68.6% 69.6% 69.6% 67.9%

Plans to buy in the next six months

Dec. Jan. Feb. March April May

Auto 8.3% 7.8% 9.0% 7.9% 7.7% 9.5%

Home 3.3% 3.3% 4.0% 4.2% 3.6% 3.6%

Appliances 29.8% 28.1% 28.3% 28.9% 29.8% 30.2%

Source: Conference Board's monthly Consumer Confidence Survey of 5,000 U.S. households, by NFO WorldGroup

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