Reports Show Consumer Isn't Flinching - TheStreet

Several economic reports Tuesday suggested that the U.S. consumer has seen little reason to stop spending money, although some of the data reflected increasingly muted expectations about the pace of growth in coming months.

In the biggest surprise of a busy morning, the National Association of Realtors said sales of preowned homes rose 7% to an annual rate of 5.79 million units in April, its third-highest reading ever. Analysts had been expecting a slight decrease. Sales rose 11.1% in the Northeast to an annual rate of 700,000, 9.5% in the South to a pace of 2.3 million, 4% in the West to 1.55 million and 3.3% in the Midwest to 1.24 million.

The realtors group said it expects existing-home sales to set a record in 2002.

Elsewhere, the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index rose to 109.8 in May from a revised 108.5 in April. May's reading is the highest since March and is the second-highest since Sept. 11. It was generally in line with that economists were predicting.

The index's present situation gauge rose to 110.3 this month from 106.8 in April, while the part that looks at expectations for the next six months fell to 109.4 from 109.6. The percentage of consumers who saw jobs as plentiful was unchanged at 20.9% this month, while those seeing jobs as not so plentiful rose to 57.2% from 56.4% in April. The percentage of respondents that saw jobs as hard to get decreased to 21.9% in May from 22.7%.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said spending increased 0.5% in April, following a 0.3% March rise. Spending on durable goods jumped 1.4% last month, while spending on nondurable goods rose 0.8%. Spending on services, which account for half of the report, increased 0.2%.