The consumer confidence index increased in November, rising to 44.9 from an upwardly revised 38.8 last month, the Conference Board reported yesterday.

The October index was initially reported as 38.0. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted the index would remain at 38.0.

The present situation index fell to 42.2 from an upwardly revised 43.5, originally reported as 41.9, while the expectations index increased to 46.7 from an upwardly revised 35.7 last month, originally reported as 35.5.

“The persistent declines in the present situation index suggest that the economy has weakened further in the final months of this year,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center. “Inflation expectations, which have been at historically high levels in recent months, subsided considerably as a result of falling gas prices. But despite the improvement in the expectations index this month, consumers remain extremely pessimistic and the possibility that economic growth will improve in the first half of 2009 remains highly unlikely.”

Business conditions were called “good” by 9.9% of respondents in November, an increase from 9.4% the previous month. Those saying conditions are “bad” rose to 40.3% from 37.1%.

The percentage of consumers expecting a pickup in business conditions in the next half-year grew to 11.4% from 9.6%, while 28.1% said they expect conditions to worsen, down from 36.5% in October.

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