WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans' confidence in the economy likely dipped again in August but remained near its highest level in more than five years.
Economists forecast that the Conference Board's consumer confidence index dropped to 79 in August, according to a survey by FactSet. That would be down from July's reading of 80.3 and below June's 5 ½-year high of 82.1.
The Conference Board, a private research group, will release its August consumer confidence index at 10 a.m. EDT Tuesday.
Consumers' confidence in the economy is watched closely because their spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.
After hitting bottom at 25.3 at the depths of the Great Recession in February 2009, the index has bounced back. But it has yet to get back to the 90 reading that signals a healthy economy.
Americans' confidence jumped in June on hopes that the job market was starting to turn around. The economy has created an average of 192,000 jobs a month this year, slightly ahead of last year's pace. And the unemployment rate fell last month to a 4 ½-year low of 7.4 percent.
Still, unemployment remains painfully high four years after the recession officially ended. And employers added just 162,000 jobs in July, the fewest in four months. That raised worries that the sluggish economy could slow any progress made earlier in the job market.
The U.S. economic recovery has been held back this year by tax hikes, federal spending cuts and weaker global growth. The economy expanded at just a 1.7 percent annual rate in the April-June quarter. Most economists expect that figure will revised up to a 2.2 percent annual rate, mostly because of a jump in June exports.
The government issues its second estimate for second-quarter growth on Thursday. Most analysts predict growth may pick up to about a 2.5 percent annual rate in the second half of the year.
Still, recent data suggest the July-September quarter is off to a weak start, leading some economists to trim their third-quarter forecasts.
On Monday the government said orders for long-lasting U.S. factory goods fell sharply in July, in part because businesses cut back sharply on big purchases that signal investment plans.
And U.S. sales of newly built homes dropped 13.4 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 394,000. That's the lowest level in nine months, raising worries that higher mortgage rates could slow the housing recovery.
Mortgage rates have risen sharply since May when Chairman Ben Bernanke first signaled the Federal Reserve could reduce its bond purchases later this year, if the economy strengthens. The bond purchases have kept long-term interest rates low, making home-buying, auto loans and other consumer loans cheap.