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Consumers in the Buffalo Niagara region are in more of a spending mood than they’ve been since the recession started 5½ years ago.

A survey released Thursday by researchers at Siena College in Loudonville found that consumers in the Buffalo Niagara region now are more interested in making major purchases than they’ve been since the spring of 2007, when they began delaying spending on big-ticket items as the economy soured.

“Consumers intend to express their pent-up demand this spring, with far greater than usual interest in buying cars, computers and furniture,” said Don Levy, director of the Siena Research Institute, which conducts a quarterly survey of consumer confidence in New York’s major cities.

But Levy also warned that the urge to spend could prove fleeting as Washington continues to grapple with record-high budget deficits and a looming deadline on raising the federal debt ceiling.

“Sentiment remains fragile and could suffer from a debt ceiling debacle,” Levy said. “But right now, it looks like consumers will spend more and add a little oomph to this economy.”

Consumer confidence improved by almost 5 percent in Buffalo Niagara in the fourth quarter, leaving sentiment levels about 15 percent higher than they were a year ago and 48 percent better than they were at the depths of the recession four years ago.

Even so, confidence levels in Buffalo Niagara are almost 7 percent lower than they are nationally and 5 percent below the statewide rate, Siena researchers said.

The survey of 400 consumers measures their willingness to spend on a wide range of items, from vehicles and furniture to computers and home improvements.

The improvement in confidence locally was the fifth-best among the nine metro areas included in the Siena survey. Confidence improved the most in Binghamton, where consumers over the last two years have been among the most downbeat in the state. It improved the least in New York City, which still remains the most upbeat market in the state.

Consumer confidence in Buffalo Niagara ranks fourth, behind New York City, Rochester and Albany.

The survey showed that a wide gap remains between current buying plans of local consumers and their plans for future spending. While consumers in Buffalo Niagara ranked first on their willingness to spend now, they ranked next-to-last on their long-term spending plans.

email: drobinson@buffnews.com