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State's consumers feeling more optimistic

STARKVILLE — Even with reports of high unemployment and increasing foreclosures, consumer confidence among Mississippians is showing improvement.

During the first quarter of the year, these results came amid national news reports of Gross Domestic Product growth, rising stocks and an increase in manufacturing, said Rebecca Smith of Mississippi State’s College of Business.

When compared to national statistics, “Mississippi’s confidence has remained relatively steady over the past year, while the national index showed a significant increase,” she added.

Smith is editor of the university-based Economy Watch business forecaster. Economy Watch is produced in cooperation with BankPlus and new partner Entergy.

According to the Mississippi Index of Consumer Confidence for the first three months of 2010, state residents’ overall assurance in the economy rose to 77.27, an increase of 6.5 percent from last quarter–and also from a year ago.

Smith said the national index began 2009 at a low 58.3 percent, but grew almost 27 percent during the year.

She said Mississippi consumers seem more secure in spending, with March’s state revenues exceeding projections. However, on specific survey questions sentiments were mixed.

When asked, “Do you think now is a good time to buy major household items,” a 9.1 point improvement was shown, but when asked if overall business conditions will improve in the next 12 months, the answer resulted in a 6 point reduction.

Looking at their present situation, state consumers saw an increase of 6 percent in the Mississippi Index of Current Conditions for the year’s first quarter as compared to the end of 2009, and an overall 15.2 percent increase over the entire year. National statistics again outweighed the Magnolia State; however, with U.S. current condition percentages showing a 25.7 percent gain for the year.

When analyzing future conditions, Smith said the Mississippi Index of Consumer Expectations increased 6.7 percent, a welcomed boost after two successive quarters of decline.

“Nationally, the state’s residents began last year with higher expectations than the rest of the U.S., and even though Mississippians still have a high degree of confidence, the national gains of 27.6 percent exceed ours locally,” she observed.

More than 500 telephone surveys conducted by the MSU Survey Research Laboratory produced the statistically significant results for the report, which is available at www.economywatch.msstate.edu.


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