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Consumer confidence up despite rising gas prices

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK — Consumer confidence recovered somewhat in April, though the impact of rising gasoline prices still is evident, according to data released Tuesday by the Conference Board.

The confidence index hit 65.4 in April, from an upwardly revised 63.8 in March. The reading still is below the 72.0 mark of February.

“Consumers’ short-term outlook improved slightly, suggesting that the uncertainty expressed last month is easing,” said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center. “Although confidence remains weak, consumers’ assessment of current conditions gained ground for the seventh straight month, a sign that the economic recovery continues.”

While expectations among consumers that business conditions will improve over the next six months declined to 18.8% from 20.8%, those anticipating business conditions to worsen decreased to 14.2% from 15.5%.

Consumers were mixed about labor market outlook for the next six months. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 17.5% from 19.6%, while those anticipating fewer jobs declined to 19% from 20.5%.

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Costco increases dividend, announces share buyback

BY Allison Cerra

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Wholesaler Costco on Tuesday said its board of directors has approved a $4 billion share buyback program. The company also raised its quarterly dividend by 17% to 24 cents, up from 20.5 cents.

The share buyback program expires in April 2015 and replaces a previous plan set to expire in July, which had $800 million remaining, the company said.

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CDC: Low availability of healthy foods in most states

BY Allison Cerra

ATLANTA — Many states need to improve healthy food access to promote healthy eating habits and curb obesity among children, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s "2011 Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report" found that 32-out-of-50 states (along with the District of Columbia) scored at or below the national average for the Modified Retail Food Environment Index, a measure of the proportion of food retailers that typically sell healthy foods within a state.

The mRFEI scores can range from zero, which indicates no food retailers typically sell healthy food within the state, to 100. The national mRFEI score was 10. States with low mRFEI scores tend to have less supermarkets, which tend to sell more healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables, than their counterparts (i.e., fast food restaurants and convenience stores).

"Childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years," CDC director Thomas Frieden said. "This report underscores the need to make healthier choices easier for kids and more accessible and affordable for parents."

To access the "2011 Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report," click here.

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