As investors place small bets on the markets in morning trading, stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) are floating in mixed waters, despite upbeat economic news about U.S. consumers.

One positive economic indicator was the result of  a report which indicated that New-York area manufacturing activity and industrial production contracted less than economists has expected; the number rose to -4.55.  They also shrank less than earlier in the year, a trend that has been seen across the board in economic data: the economy continues to deteriorate, but at a slower pace.

On yet another positive note, consumer confidence rose to its strongest level since the demise of Lehman Brothers in September. The Reuters/University of Michigan Survey of Consumers indicates that  a preliminary consumer confidence index for May is at 67.9, up from 65.1 in April and above the 67 that economists anticipated.  The survey indicates that confidence rose because consumers have come to the conclusion that the economy is in its final stages of contraction and their own personal finances would remain dismal, forcing them to keep personal spending at low levels in the near future, states Chris Reese of the Associated Press.

More signals that the worst phase of the recession may be over came from a report that indicated that U.S. consumer prices remained flat in April. The unchanged Consumer Price Index was expected after falling 0.1% in March.  As a result, the Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP) was up nearly 0.5% in intraday trading, despite being down 4.9% year-to-date.

From a global perspective, things don”t look as sunny across the pond.  The economy in the 16 countries in the eurozone shrank by a whopping 2.5% in the first quarter as European exports have halted.  European governments are hoping that big interest rate reductions by central banks, increased government spending and efforts to prop up troubled banks will boost their economies and mark the first quarter of the year as the low point of the recession, states Pan Pylass of the Associated Press.  Despite  this news, the iShares S&P Europe 350 Index (IEV) was up nearly 0.1% in morning trading. It’s down 2.7% year-to-date.