More light at the end of the tunnel for the US economy, with the news that consumer confidence is at a five-month high and that orders for durable goods rose for the second time in three months in December.

The closely watched confidence index of the Conference Board was up from December’s 94.6 to 97.3 in January, while the New York-based group’s expectations index rose to 96.9, its highest level for a year.

According to the Commerce Department, demand for durable goods – defined as products meant to last over three years – was up 2% last month to $176.4 billion, a slight recovery after a 6% fall in November.

Orders for vehicles, aircraft, machinery and semiconductors increased 3.5% in December (compared with a 20% decline the previous month); those for other durable goods increased 1.4%.

Following a rise of 6.7% in 2000, durable goods orders for the whole of 2001 declined 13.2% – the worst drop since current records began in 1992.

News source: New York Times