May 31, 2:14 PM EDT

US consumer confidence slips in May


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AP Photo/Alan Diaz

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer confidence fell for a second month in May to the lowest level since November.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence slipped to 92.6 from 94.7 in April. The May reading matched the level in November. Both months were the lowest since last July.

Conference Board economists say that consumers remain cautious about the outlook for business and job market conditions, and anticipate little change in the months ahead.

The reading from the Conference Board stands in contrast to the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment gauge, which rose in May to its highest reading in nearly a year.

Analysts said that the Michigan measure tends to be more volatile than the Conference Board survey. It is more influenced by changes in the stock market, while the Conference Board index has a greater link to job market conditions.

The Michigan survey may be giving a better read on consumers' mood at the moment, especially in light of the fact that a separate report Tuesday showed consumers felt good enough in April to boost their spending by the largest amount in more than six years, analysts said.

"It's difficult to explain when the economic data go one way and surveys go another," said Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets. "The confidence data suggest that consumers remain cautious, but if job growth keeps up and wage growth heads higher, we should see personal spending continuing to provide the muscle behind the U.S. economy."

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