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Mixed Signals Keep your business alive in an unpredictable economy.

By Chris Penttila

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Words like variable and mixed are usually used todescribe the weather. These days, they can also be used to describethe U.S. economy.

While the economy keeps growing overall, the combination ofrising gas prices, a static job market and a potential housingbubble has left the U.S. consumer somewhat pessimistic. Consumerconfidence fell for the fifth straight month in May--the longestconsecutive decline since 2002. The Conference Board's"Consumer Confidence Index," a monthly survey of 5,000U.S. households, tumbled 6.3 points between March and April alone.While the most recent figures from the survey indicate thatconsumer confidence may be on the rise--the index rose more than 2points between May and June--entrepreneurs aren't out of thewoods yet.

Americans aren't expecting the economy to derail, but theydo expect more of the same, says Lynn Franco, director of TheConference Board's Consumer Research Center in New York City."We're getting mixed signals," Franco says."There's been economic improvement, but it hasn't beensteady."

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