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Consumer Confidence Up Slightly in December

U.S. consumer confidence rose slightly in December with a marginal improvement in the outlook for business conditions, employment and inflation, according to a private report on Thursday.

The Conference Board said its index of consumer sentiment rose to 88.6 in December from a revised 87.8 in November. The median forecast of economists polled by Reuters was for a reading of 86.5.

The present situation index fell to 108.3 in December, its lowest since October 2005, from a revised 115.7 in November.

The expectations index rose to 75.5 in December from a revised 69.1.

Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center, noted that "while consumers are less negative about the near-term future, they remain far from optimistic. In fact, in assessing the current job market, pessimists now outnumber optimists."

The Conference Board said those saying jobs are "hard to get" rose to 23.5 percent from 21.4 percent, while those saying jobs are "plentiful" declined to 22.7 percent in December from 23.3 percent in November.

"The jobs hard to get, which is closely watched, jumped two points -- I wouldn't necessary say that is out of the recent range, but that certainly bears watching," said Cary Leahey, senior managing director at Decision Economics in New York.

U.S. Treasury debt prices held steady at higher levels, while stocks slightly pared losses after the release of the confidence data.