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Consumer confidence inches higher in June

WASHINGTON (AP) – Strong job growth lifted U.S. consumer confidence this month, as Americans looked past the economy’s dismal first-quarter performance.

The University of Michigan says that its index of consumer sentiment rose slightly to 82.5 in June from 81.9 in May. That is still below April’s reading of 84.1, which had been the highest in almost a year.

The reading suggests consumers shrugged off the economy’s first- quarter contraction. Still, the survey was conducted before the government said the economy shrank much more than previously estimated, at an annual rate of 2.9 percent rather than 1 percent.

And better confidence hasn’t yet translated into more spending.

Steady hiring is improving Americans’ finances, the survey found. Forty percent of respondents said their finances had improved in June, the most in seven years.

First Niagara adds Cronin

First Niagara Financial Group named Paul Cronin, a veteran of HSBC and other banks, as senior managing director of capital markets.

Cronin will focus on loan syndications and private placements. The bank said Cronin will also be responsible for its international trade and foreign exchange services, and will oversee development of new capital markets products and services.

The Ireland native will operate from the bank’s Norwalk, Conn., and Philadephia offices.

Dollar General retirement

Dollar General Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rick Dreiling plans to retire in 2015, sending the company on a search for a new leader at a tumultuous time for the industry.

Dreiling, 60, plans to step down as CEO by May 30 of next year or whenever a successor is hired, according to a statement Friday. He intends to remain as chairman during a transition period following the appointment of a new CEO.

Since Dreiling took the helm in 2008, Dollar General’s annual sales have risen 80 percent to $17.5 billion, while its store count has grown 38 percent to more than 11,000. Other chains haven’t done as well, putting pressure on the industry to consolidate. Dollar General is seen as a potential acquirer of smaller rival Family Dollar Stores, which billionaire investor Carl Icahn has said should put itself up for sale.

“The stock had gone up a lot on the speculation they would take over Family Dollar – it couldn’t be possible if he’s leaving in a year,” said Joan Storms, a Los Angeles-based analyst.

– Bloomberg News

Next week in business ...

• Monday – National Association of Realtors releases pending home sales index for May.

• Tuesday – Institute for Supply Management releases its manufacturing index for June. Commerce Department releases construction spending for May. Automakers release vehicle sales for June.

• Wednesday – Commerce Department releases factory orders for May.

• Thursday – Labor Department releases weekly jobless claims. Commerce Department releases international trade data for May. Labor Department releases employment data for June. Freddie Mac, the mortgage company, releases weekly mortgage rates. Institute for Supply Management releases its service sector index for June.

• Friday – U.S. stock and bond market closed for Independence Day.

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