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Florida consumer confidence makes an unexpected jump

Researchers at the University of Florida acknowledge that they're baffled this time.

Florida's consumer confidence in April shot up six points to a level last seen 21/2 years ago even though the state is mired in record unemployment.

"Florida's consumers have been full of surprises the past several months," said Chris McCarty, survey director of UF's Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which released its latest monthly report Tuesday morning.

"Much like the reading for January, this rise in confidence was completely unexpected," McCarty said. "Last month Florida broke its all-time record for unemployment at 12.3 percent. Yet Floridians are far more optimistic this month than last."

The consumer confidence level for Florida rose to 77. The last time the state was at or near that level was when confidence stood at 79 in October of 2007, the same month the Dow Jones industrial average peaked at 14,168.

McCarty surmised that the spike may be connected to enthusiasm over appliance tax rebates and the tax credit for first-time home buyers. "The big question is what happens when the rebates run out in May and the stimulus dollars are spent," he said.

The monthly telephone survey is benchmarked to 1966, meaning a reading of 100 would reflect the same level of consumer confidence as that year.

The UF survey mirrors a confidence surge on the national level.

In a separate report Tuesday, the Conference Board said American confidence in the economy rose in April to the highest level since September 2008, just as the financial crisis was escalating.

The national index of 57.9 was up from a revised 52.3 in March.

Economists watch the number closely because consumer spending, including health care and other major items, accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

National index up

The national confidence index of 57.9 was up from a revised 52.3 in March. The index had been recovering in fits and starts since hitting an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009.

Florida consumer confidence makes an unexpected jump 04/27/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 11:55pm]

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