Following three quarters of declines, the California Composite Index of Consumer Sentiment increased to 65.1 in the third quarter of this year from 57.6 in the second quarter of 2008, according to the Center for Economic Research at Chapman University.

The Index measures three components, including consumers' outlook on current economic conditions, consumers' outlook on future economic conditions, and consumers' future spending plans. A reading below 100 reflects a higher percentage of pessimistic consumers compared with those who are optimistic.

Although the component measuring current economic conditions declined to 40, the components measuring future economic conditions and planned spending on big ticket items increased to 94.4 and 56.7, respectively, implying that consumer spending could improve over the next six months.