After months of negativity, the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index posted a slight uptick in December at 88.6 (1985=100), up from 87.8 in November. The rate had been falling since the summer, due mainly to the fallout from the declining U.S. housing market.

"Consumers' short-term outlook regarding business conditions, employment, inflation, and stock prices improved marginally," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "However, while consumers are less negative about the near-term future, they remain far from optimistic."

The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households conducted monthly for The Conference Board by the research company TNS.