Consumer confidence remains unchanged from November collapse, according to RBC CASH Index

    NEW YORK, Dec. 7 /CNW/ - Although the holiday season has arrived, U.S.
consumers are not feeling very merry, according to the most recent results of
the RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index. The survey,
which measured the attitudes of 1,009 Americans earlier this week, found that
consumer sentiment remained low, but stable, following a significant drop in
November. While Americans' expectations for future prospects and their
confidence in jobs improved slightly, their evaluations about current
conditions and investments continued to decline. As a result of these mixed
sentiments, the RBC CASH Index for December 2007 stands at 65.9, compared to
64.0 in November.
    "Consumer sentiment remains stuck at very low levels," said T.J. Marta,
Economic and Fixed Income Strategist for RBC Capital Markets. "Consumers have
been seeing high gasoline and oil prices, a struggling stock market and
falling housing sales and prices. And now they see worrisome headlines that
financial companies thought to have been safe from the subprime mortgage
debacle are running into trouble."
    The RBC CASH Index is a monthly national survey of consumer attitudes on
the current and future state of local economies, personal finance situations,
savings and confidence to make large investments. The Index is composed of
four sub-indices: RBC Current Conditions Index; RBC Expectations Index; RBC
Investment Index; and, RBC Jobs Index. The Index is benchmarked to a baseline
of 100 assigned at its introduction in January 2002. This month's findings are
based on a representative nationwide sample of 1,009 U.S. adults polled from
December 3-5, 2007 by survey-based research company Ipsos Public Affairs. The
margin of error was plus or minus 3.1 per cent. Highlights of the survey
results include:

    -   After free-falling into negative territory in November, Americans'
        expectations regarding future economic conditions inched up this
        month. The RBC Expectations Index for December stands at a tepid 7.9,
        up 12 points from -4.3 last month. This month, 22 per cent of
        consumers report they expect their local economy to be stronger six
        months from now, compared to 19 per cent in November, while one
        quarter (25 per cent) expect their local economy to be weaker in six
        months, compared to 27 per cent last month. Job loss expectations
        also contributed to the improvement, as those reporting future job
        loss is likely declined slightly this month to 16 per cent, compared
        to 19 per cent in November.

    -   The RBC Current Conditions Index slipped again this month reaching
        85.3, down 5 points from November's 90.3 level, and down more than
        15 points from October when it stood at 101.1. A decline in
        Americans' comfort with making household purchases was the main
        driver behind the decline, a potentially troubling sign for retailers
        during this holiday shopping season. Consumers' comfort level for
        making household purchases dipped to 32 per cent in December from
        34 per cent last month, and their discomfort level reached
        49 per cent this month, compared to 47 per cent in November.

    -   The RBC Jobs Index registered a small gain this month, reaching
        113.9, compared to 111.8 in November, as Americans' concerns over job
        security stabilized. Personal job loss experience in December
        decreased by two points, with 33 per cent of consumers reporting job
        loss in their immediate circle, compared to 35 per cent last month.
        Americans reporting no personal job loss in their immediate circle
        also increased two points, reaching 66 per cent this month, compared
        to 64 per cent in November.

    -   Consumers' views of the investment climate continued to cool in
        December bringing the RBC Investment Index down another four points
        to 79.7, compared to 83.4 last month. While consumer comfort levels
        for future investments held steady at 37 per cent, and the percentage
        of Americans reporting they are less confident in investing remained
        unchanged from November's 46 per cent, the decline in consumers'
        perceptions of their personal finances and their comfort level in
        making household purchases contributed to the decline in the RBC
        Investment Index.

    The entire RBC CASH Index report can be viewed at:

For further information:

For further information: Loretta A. Healy, The Hubbell Group, Inc.,
(781) 878-8882; Kevin Foster, RBC Capital Markets, (212) 428-6902

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