The man on the street may not pay much attention to the monthly consumer
confidence index, but a University of Tennessee economist says it is
important to business executives and policy-makers.

"It is used as a barometer by business leaders and government policy-makers
who want to have a better understanding of what consumer attitudes are,"
Matt Murray said.

"Consumer attitudes are one of the major driving forces, coupled with
income, that determine spending patterns."

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the nation's economic
activity.

The Conference Board, a New York-based research group, tracks consumer
confidence and issues a monthly report.

The July index indicated Americans are slightly less confident about future
business conditions and job opportunities than they were in June, the board
said.

Still, consumer confidence in the economy remains close to the highest
levels in four years.

"The overall index still points to a positive trend for the U.S. economy.
In the July index, 17 percent of those surveyed expect conditions to
improve in the next six months, and less than 10 percent said conditions
would get worse," Murray said.

"That suggests that people in general are remaining fairly optimistic about
the future health and vitality of the economy."