Report: Optimism about the economy up 10 percent in fourth quarter

STARKVILLE — Mississippians’ optimism about the economy jumped 10 percent from the third to fourth quarter of 2011, according to the latest Mississippi Index of Consumer Sentiment featured in the current edition of “Economy Watch.”

Based at Mississippi State University’s College of Business, “Economy Watch” is published in cooperation with BankPlus and Entergy. More than 500 telephone surveys conducted by the university’s Survey Research Laboratory produced the statistically significant results for the fourth-quarter report.

Gains in the state index came mainly from consumers’ significant improvement in their attitudes about current economic conditions.
A comparable national index at the University of Michigan saw an increase of 9 percent from quarter to quarter. Findings indicated that positive employment news contributed to the improvement in U.S. consumers’ outlook.
The Mississippi Index of Consumer Sentiment is comprised of two components: current conditions and future conditions.
With a reading at 89.2 in the fourth quarter, the Mississippi Index of Current Conditions came closest to the 2007 benchmark level of 90 that signals a healthy economy.
Among other survey findings:
–Consumer reports of their financial situations remained low, but improving: 28.5 percent of Mississippi respondents said they were “better off” than last year at the same time. In the third quarter, only 17.8 percent replied that they were “better off.”
–Mississippians’ buying plans for durables increased significantly. Asked if it was a good time to buy a major household item, 59 percent said “yes”–an almost 10 percent increase since the third quarter.
–The long-run outlook for Mississippi was the only question losing ground in the fourth quarter. Only 11.6 percent said they thought that the state would see “good times” in the next five years. In the third quarter, 14.3 percent of respondents answered positively.

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