Consumers May Trim Majap Purchases

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NEW YORK -- Consumers grew more pessimistic about the economy in April, and they have curtailed plans to purchase major appliances and TVs, according to The Conference Board's monthly Consumer Confidence Index.

The Conference Board reported that the percentage of households that rated business conditions as "good" last month declined to 44.5 percent from 45.7 percent in March, while the number that claim jobs are "hard to get" rose to 12 percent from 10.6 percent over the same period.

That cautiousness manifested as a cutback in planned purchases of key white goods. Only 2.6 percent of consumers queried said they intended to buy a washing machine within the next six months, while planned purchases of refrigerators fell from 4.4 percent to 4.2 percent over the period.

Similarly, the percentage of those planning to purchase a washing machine by October fell from 4.1 percent last month to 2.6 percent in April, and the number of short-term air conditioner customers remained flat at 2.1 percent of respondents.

The only majap category to gain ground was kitchen ranges, which edged up four-tenths of a percent to 3.4 percent.

Video was weak, with only 6.8 percent of consumers looking to buy a TV within the next six months, down from 7.7 percent in March.

Interestingly, the volatility of the financial markets has had little, if any, impact on consumer confidence, The Conference Board said, pointing to respondents' improved short-term outlook. This boost in near-term optimism, coupled with tax refunds, should continue to fuel spending.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households and is conducted for The Conference Board by Greenwich, Conn.-based NFO Research.

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