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US consumer confidence rises despite omicron, higher prices

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence rose this month as Americans shrugged off concerns about rising prices and COVID’-19’s highly contagious omicron variant.

The Conference Board, a business research group, said Wednesday that its consumer confidence index — which takes into account consumers’ assessment of current conditions and the their out- look for the future — rose to 115.8 in December, the highest reading since July. In No- vember, it registered 111.9.

Consumers’ view of current conditionsdippedslightly,but their outlook for the next six months brightened.

Their expectations for in- flation actually dropped this month — perhaps because gasoline prices have fallen in recent weeks — even though the government reported that prices rose in November at the fastest year-over-year rate since 1982.

“Despite high inflation and

the rising Omicron wave, con- sumers are bullish on 2022,’’ said Robert Frick, economist with Navy Federal Credit Union. “This reflects grow- ing economic momentum, as job openings remain high and prices are dropping at the pump.Thisisfurtherevidence that consumer spending will keep rising and be the main factor fueling the expansion.”

It was the first reading tak- en since COVID-19’s omicron variant started spreading rap- idly around the world, threat- ening the unexpectedly strong economic reocvery from last year’s coronavirus recession.

“Looking ahead to 2022, both confidence and con- sumer spending will continue to face headwinds from rising prices and an expected winter surge of the pandemic,’’ said Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s senior director of eco- nomic indicators.

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