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News In Brief

Consumer confidence rose in May for a record-setting seventh consecutive month, the Conference Board reported. Its consumer-confidence index rose to 135.8 this month from a revised 135.5 in April - reaching the highest level recorded since July of last year, when it stood at 137.2. Most Wall Street analysts had expected the index to remain unchanged in May.

The measures being used to prod consumers in Japan to spend, spend, spend simply aren't working, new government data show. The Ministry of International Trade and Industry reported a drop in overall retail sales of 1.8 percent in April, compared to the same month last year. Sales at chain stores fell 5.3 percent, at large retail outlets by 4.8 percent, and at department stores by 3 percent. Under international pressure, the government has tried to boost comsumer spending as a way out of Japan's worst recession since World War II by - among other measures - distributing free shopping vouchers that are worth more than $50 each.

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