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Confidence Up 10 Percent

New York — Soaring sharply higher than expectations, consumer confidence jumped up more than 10 percent in December to its highest level in five months, helped by an improving jobs outlook and lower energy prices.

The widely watched barometer of consumer sentiment — and consumer spending down the road — climbed to a level of 102.3, up 10.5 percent from an upwardly revised reading of 92.6 in November, The Conference Board reported. It marked a big rebound after months of weakness, and the highest point in the index since a reading of 105.7 recorded in July.

The December reading breezed past a consensus forecast by economists for a more modest uptick to a level of 93.5, reported Briefing.com.

“The continuing economic expansion, combined with job growth, has consumers ending the year on a high note,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research center. Driving the big recovery, said Franco, was consumers' more favorable impression of current economic conditions. “And consumers' outlook suggests that the economy will continue to expand in the first half of the new year.”

Assessing current economic conditions, consumers were significantly more upbeat, with 24.4 percent saying conditions are good, up from 23.2 percent a month ago. The number who think conditions are 'bad' fell to 17.8 percent from 20.2 percent.

The employment picture also improved in December, with the number who think jobs are more 'plentiful' increasing to 19.4 percent from 17.1 percent.

Polishing up their crystal ball, consumers were also more upbeat about the next six months, with 22 percent expecting business conditions to improve.

CONFIDENCE BY REGION

Region % change
Source: The Conference Board
New England 18.3%
Middle Atlantic 25.8
East North Central -2.7
West North Central 5.6
South Atlantic 4.7
East South Central 1.3
West South Central -0.1
Mountain 26.0
Pacific 4.0


Buying plans December
Plans to purchase over the next six months

Source: The Conference Board
Homes 30.8%
Carpets 32.5
Cars 39.1
Major appliances 15.8
Vacation 0.8


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