CONSUMER CONFIDENCE DECLINES In December, the Conference Board’s monthly index fell sharply from its lofty November reading of 128.6. That number was a 17-year high. Economists polled by Bloomberg expected a retreat to 128.0; instead, the gauge dropped to 122.1, which was still one of its best readings in the past 15 years. Lynn Franco, the Conference Board’s director of economic indicators, noted that consumer expectations remain at “historically strong levels, suggesting economic growth will continue well into 2018.”1   OIL ENDS 2017 ABOVE $60 The yearlong comeback of light sweet crude culminated in a December 29 NYMEX close of $60.42,