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Consumer confidence hits two-year high

NEW YORK — With Americans looking forward to an improving economy and a stronger job market, consumer confidence jumped sharply during June to its highest level in the past two years, The Conference Board reported.

The bellwether gauge of consumer sentiment — widely viewed as a preview of future consumer spending — climbed more than eight points to a current level of 101.9, up from 93.1 in May.

"The strong improvement in current conditions has propelled consumer confidence to levels not seen since June 2002,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "Looking ahead, consumers expect the economy to continue to grow at a healthy clip and to continue to generate additional jobs. And, with prices at the pump beginning to ease, the short-term outlook remains favorable."

Consumers were feeling remarkably buoyant as they assayed both current and future conditions, the business think tank reported. The Present Situation Index now stands at 104.8, up hugely from 90.5 in May. The number who describe current business conditions as “good” rose to 25.6 percent, up from 22.2 percent in May. The number claiming conditions have worsened correspondingly fell to 17.5 percent from 21.6 percent. The number who say jobs are “hard to get” fell to 26.5 percent from 30.3 percent. And the number who said jobs are “plentiful” increased to 18 percent from 16.6 percent.

Looking ahead, consumers are feeling even better, The Conference Board reported. The Expectations Index climbed to a level of 100, up from 94.8 Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months rose to 23.4 percent from 22.8 percent. Those expecting business to worsen declined to 9.2 percent from 10.1 percent.

The employment outlook remains upbeat as well. Those anticipating more jobs to become available rose to 19.7 percent from 18.7 percent

Consumers are also counting on fatter paychecks. The number who anticipate an increase in their income rose to 19.3 percent, up from 17.1 percent in May.

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