American consumer confidence improved slightly in October, though the outlook for the US economy remains far from rosy.

The University of Michigan announced its consumer sentiment index rose from 81.8 last month to 82.7 in October, with the long-term confidence measure increasing from 73.5 to 75.5.

However, with reports of declining home sales and increasing numbers of layoffs, economists do not expect an imminent improvement. Said the University of Michigan’s Richard Curtin: “Even though consumers were not as grim as late last month, the overall level of confidence is quite low and still indicates the economy is falling into recession.”

Meanwhile, a survey conducted for the Conference Board found that attitudes towards the economic effects of September 11 are changing slightly.

The proportion of consumers expecting the terrorist attacks to steer the US economy into recession increased from 47.2% on September 18–19 to 52.3% a month later, but the percentage believing their households would be affected financially fell from 50.5% to 46%. Nearly nine out of ten respondents said they would not postpone purchases of big-ticket items.

News sources: Wall Street Journal;