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Consumer confidence up again in January

New York — In one more compelling signal that American consumers may be ready to re-ignite a sputtering economy with their spending, consumer confidence climbed for a second straight month in January, The Conference Board reported.

The bellwether indicator advanced nearly three points to a reading of 97.3, up from 94.6 in December, and up a whopping 12.4 points from the December reading of 84.9. The index has now climbed back to its pre-Sept. 11 levels and is at its highest point since last August and a reading of 114.3.

"While the economy has not turned around yet, the worst may well be over," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "The upturn in confidence is being driven by growing confidence about the business outlook and job prospects. Consumer expectations for the future are now higher than they have been in more than a year."

Critical to any rebound in consumer spending is the jobs picture, and the employment outlook continued to improve in January. Currently, 18.8 percent of consumers expect more jobs to become available during the next six months, up from 16.5 percent in December. In somewhat of a wash, though, the number of consumers who claim jobs are hard to find also rose, to 22.7 percent from 21.9 percent, The Conference Board reported.

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