The economic outlook for most Americans is improving, but not enough to give the all-important holiday shopping season a boost, according to new data from Consumer Reports.
The publication's Trouble Tracker Index, which measures financial difficulties faced by consumers in the past 30 days, has declined for five straight months and now stands at 49.3 for November, down from 50.5 the prior month and down significantly from a reading of 62.1 one year ago.
Similarly, the Consumer Reports Stress Index, which measures the stress consumers feel in their everyday lives, was down in November to 58.5 from 63.2 in the prior month, and is also down sharply from a reading of 60.5 one year ago.
Put together, these data point to potential improvement among consumers, but Consumer Reports Money Adviser's Amanda Walker notes that, as Black Friday approaches, there are still some troubling signs for retailers.
The Consumer Reports Next 30-Day Retail Index for November, which measures consumers' intentions to shop in the next 30 days, is down from one year ago, she said, with particular weakness seen in planned purchasing of personal electronics relative to a year ago.
The Consumer Reports data point to improvement in the economy, but this year's holiday shopping season is likely to get off to a slow start, Walker said.
"It doesn't mean no one will buy an iPad or a MP3 player or an ebook reader, but [consumers] are saying they plan to buy less than they did last year, at least in early November," Walker added. She also said that as Black Friday nears and retailers begin to tout their sales, consumers might get into a spending mood.
Consumer Reports' Amanda Walker discusses the report on CNBC here: