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Consumer confidence soared to a 31-year high in the US

during December, the Conference Board reported. Analysts said the confidence reading provides further evidence that the nation's economic expansion will continue through February, surpass the 106-month expansion of the 1960s, and become the longest in US history.

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Sales of existing US homes rose 6 percent last month, the National Association of Realtors said. November marked the first month of increase following four consecutive months of decline, as the housing market was cooled by rising mortgage rates. At the end of November, there was an inventory of 1.78 million homes available for sale, representing 4.3 months of supply at the present sales pace. That is the lowest inventory since the all-time low of 4.1 months set in December 1994.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society