Regional Reports

Economists watch the Chicago index and other regional manufacturing reports for an early reading on the national outlook. The Chicago group says its membership includes both manufacturers and service providers, making the gauge a measure of overall growth. Its members have operations across the U.S. and abroad.

Today's figure is at odds with regional factory reports from Philadelphia and New York that showed Japan's earthquake- related supply shortages kept working their way through the economy this month.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's index showed manufacturing in the region shrank in June for the first time in nine months, while the New York Fed's report showed a contraction at factories this month as the so-called Empire State measure dropped to the lowest level since November.

The Institute for Supply Management's monthly national factory index probably also declined in June, reflecting a slower pace of expansion, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed before the Tempe, Arizona-based group's figures tomorrow.

Federal Reserve

Fed officials announced last week they will maintain record monetary stimulus to support the economy after completing a $600 billion bond-purchase program that was scheduled to end today.

"The economic recovery is continuing at a moderate pace, though somewhat more slowly" than policy makers had expected, according to a Fed statement on June 22. "The slower pace of the recovery reflects in part factors that are likely to be temporary," such as supply chain disruptions stemming from the Japanese disaster in March and the jump in gasoline prices earlier this year.

Retail fuel costs that have dropped 11 percent from a 2011 high of $3.99 per gallon are relieving stress on Americans' pocketbooks. Lower prices at the pump are soothing consumers coping with a cooling labor market that's restraining incomes and spending.

The Bloomberg confidence survey showed all three components advanced. An index of consumers' views of the economy increased to minus 79.2 last week from minus 80.1. The gauge of personal finances rose to minus 5.5 from minus 7.6 the prior week. The buying climate measure was little changed at minus 46.9, the best showing since January.

Consumer Spending

"Falling retail gasoline prices, which should free up approximately $42 billion in discretionary income, likely bolstered the outlook of consumers," said Joseph Brusuelas, senior economist at Bloomberg LP in New York. Cheaper fuel "may provide needed support for consumer confidence."