Consumers give US economy a lift before election

WASHINGTON (AP) - Just five days before the election, there's a flurry of economic reports indicating that consumers are growing more confident and spending more -- giving a boost to an economy that is still weak.

The reports find that consumer confidence surged in October to its highest level in nearly five years, as Americans were encouraged by recent declines in the unemployment rate.

It appears that Americans responded by spending more on cars and trucks and at retail businesses, and on goods produced at U.S. factories.

The stock market is welcoming the signs of improved economic health. The Dow has been up by more than 100 points for much of the day.

On the eve of the release of the October jobs report, the government reported that weekly unemployment applications fell by 9,000 last week, to a level suggesting that hiring isn't likely to pick up much from its current pace of about 150,000 new jobs a month.

An economist at BMO Capital Markets, in a note to clients, said the new numbers don't contain any "glowing upside surprises" -- but that U.S. economic data are at least "moving in the right direction."


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