<strong>CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IMPROVES, SUGGESTS SLOW ECONOMIC GROWTH</strong>The confidence level of U.S. consumers improved this month, buoyed by a more favorable assessment of current economic conditions, according to yesterday's report from The Conference Board. Following a two-month decline, the Board's Consumer Confidence Index increased to 108 in May, up from 106.3 in April. The Present Situation and Expectations indexes also improved, rising to 136.1 and 89.2, respectively. Despite the gain in consumer confidence, "The short-term outlook remains cautious, and rising gasoline prices are having a negative impact on consumers' inflation expectations," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Confidence levels continue to suggest growth, albeit at a slow pace."<br /><br />While Americans showed more optimism about present-day conditions this month, concerns about the job market continued. According to the report, the proportion of consumers anticipating more jobs to open up remained unchanged at 13.3 percent, and the percentage of consumers anticipating their incomes to increase in the near-term edged down to 17.7 percent from 18.4 percent in April.