Florida economy, confidence rise

Two key economic markers in Florida -- consumer confidence and a much-watched home price index -- showed a second consecutive month of improvement, offering further evidence the recession is easing, though a long recovery likely awaits.

The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index showed South Florida home prices posted their second, though modest, monthly gain of 1.3 percent in July, as strong sales and shrinking inventory helped to firm up prices. The index, however, was still down from a year ago, by 21 percent.

Nationally, consumer confidence dipped by 1.4 percent to 53.1 in September, according to The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group. That not a good sign for retailers whose hopes are pegged to robust holiday spending.

Bucking the national trend, however, new figures from the University of Florida show consumer confidence rose three points in September to 74, following a revised increase of four points in August. The two-month trend indicates more than a margin of error as previous blips in the index may have suggested.

``This is real,'' said Chris McCarty, survey director of UF's Bureau of Economic and Business. ``Consumers have been hearing the recession is over, or the worst of it, and this is a reflection of that,'' he said.

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