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Consumers more confident

New York — Now that the war with Iraq has settled, Americans are betting that business conditions and the job outlook will improve over the next six months, and consumer confidence climbed in May to its highest level in six months, The Conference Board reported.

The bellwether gauge of consumer sentiment — widely viewed as an indicator of future consumer spending — rose by 3.5 percent to a level of 83.8, up from 81.0 in April. The move wasn't as big as last month's 31.9 percent surge — and economists had hoped for an even bigger gain of almost 5 percent, to a level of 84.9 percent — but it worked like a charm on Wall Street, where it triggered a rally in the Dow Jones Industrial Average of more than 127 points in mid-afternoon trading.

Wary consumers continue to focus on the jobs outlook and are feeling somewhat better about conditions going forward, the business think tank reported.

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