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GAINESVILLE, FL-Consumer confidence throughout the Sunshine State dropped by a single point in May after gaining seven points the previous month, the latest University of Florida index shows. The new result reflects pessimism about personal finances despite an improving national economic outlook.

Components of the index are a mixed bag in the latest month, which measures 71 overall. Perceptions of personal finances over the past year fell four points to 40, while expectations of those finances in the coming year rose five points to 90, the highest level since October 2007.

“Floridians are saying they don’t have the money now to buy, but they expect to within a year,” observes Chris McCarty, director of the UF Survey Research Center at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “While they expect the US economy to improve over the next year, they are beginning to question its long-term viability.”

Among other index components, perceptions of the national economy over the next year rose four points to 73, while those over the next five years fell four points to 78. Perceptions of whether now is a good time to buy big-ticket consumer items declined six points to 72.

Even though housing prices appear to be stabilizing in some markets statewide, prices have fallen to a level that cannot sustain a larger drop, McCarty notes. Meanwhile, statewide unemployment declined slightly in April to 9.6% and declines in retail sales have slowed, he says.

Given the turmoil ahead, namely cuts in the state budget and the effects of a General Motors bankruptcy filing, McCarty believes Florida residents are bracing much as they will for the upcoming hurricane season. “At this point,” he says, “they just want to get about the business of cleaning up the mess.”

The Florida Consumer Attitude Survey, conducted monthly by UF, is based on responses from 408 residents ages 18 or older living in households phoned randomly. The index is benchmarked to 1966, so a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year.

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