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Consumer confidence at a three-year high

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index reached 70.4 in February, a three-year high from February 2008, thanks to growing optimism about the short-term future.

Consumers’ assessment of present-day conditions improved moderately in February, with 12.4% of consumers stating business conditions are "good" (up from 11.3%), while those claiming business conditions are "bad" was unchanged at 39.6%. Looking ahead, more consumers (0.4%) said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen declined to 10.4% from 12.2%.

The outlook on the job market, however, was mixed, with less consumers expecting more jobs in the near future (19.8% from 20.8% in January), although those anticipating fewer jobs decreased to 15.4% from 21.2%.

"The Consumer Confidence Index is now at a three-year high (February 2008, 76.4) due to growing optimism about the short-term future," noted Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions has improved moderately, but still remains rather weak. Looking ahead, consumers are more positive about the economy and their income prospects, but feel somewhat mixed about employment conditions."

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Wegmans commits to maintaining prices amid rising food costs

BY Allison Cerra

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Escalating food costs may have a firm grip on consumers’ wallets, but one retailer is promising "to keep prices low and [its] quality and service high."

Wegmans this week said that it will not change the prices on 40 of the products most important to families through the end of 2011. According to the company’s website, many of the items listed include store-brand products and produce. Wegmans also noted that, counting different varieties and sizes, about 200 items are covered by the company’s price pledge.

"We hope this — plus more low prices and great Wegmans-brand items throughout the store — will help you and your family make great meals easy, healthy and affordable," the company said.

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Survey: Docs aren’t telling obese patients to lose weight

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — A new Harris Poll published Tuesday suggested that many doctors are doing little or nothing to help their overweight patients to lose weight.

Using classifications defined by the World Health Organization, 19% of those who are morbidly obese (with a body mass index of 35 or greater), 46% of those who are obese (BMI of between 30 and 34) and 72% who are overweight but not obese (BMI of between 25 and 29), said that their doctors have never told them to lose weight.

Many of these people clearly recognize that they should lose weight and have made a New Year’s resolution to do so, including 62% of the morbidly obese, 59% of the obese and 49% of the overweight.

Many of those who are overweight have participated at some time in their lives in programs to try to manage their weight. In most cases, these were their own personal programs, rather than formal programs run by such weight-loss companies as Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, or programs by their employers or insurance companies. However it is notable that 19% of the morbidly obese, 27% of the obese and 31% of the overweight have never participated in any weight-management program, even one of their own.

These are some of the results of the Harris Poll of 2,566 adults surveyed online between Jan. 17 and 24, by Harris Interactive.

Some other findings in this survey include:

  • 44% of all adults said that they made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, including 47% of women and 40% of men;

  • One-in-5 adults (19%) reported that their weight has caused them health problems, including 64% of the morbidly obese and 23% of the obese; and

  • Only one-third of all adults (32%) have been told by their doctors that they should lose weight.

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