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U.S. consumer confidence jumps dramatically in February

Index hits one-year high; optimism on job market outweighing concerns over rising gas prices.

Consumer confidence 2012 02-28Enlarge
Consumers are seen with shopping bags on April 12, 2011. U.S. consumer confidence hit a one-year high in February as optimism over the job market outweighed concern over rising gas prices. (Chirstopher Furlong/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. consumer confidence hit a one-year high in February as optimism about jobs outweighed concern over rising gas prices, an independent survey showed Tuesday.

The Conference Board said its index of consumer attitudes increased to 70.8 this month -- the highest reading since February last year -- from an upwardly revised 61.5 in January, Reuters reported.

Analysts had expected a reading of 63, although the index is still far below the 90 that indicates a healthy economy, The Associated Press reported.

Economists watch the confidence numbers closely because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, according to the AP.

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"Consumers are considerably less pessimistic about current business and labor market conditions than they were in January," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement.

"And, despite further increases in gas prices, they are more optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy, job prospects and their financial situation."

Gas prices have risen 42 cents since the start of the year and were averaging $3.78 a gallon in the week through Monday, according to the Energy Information Agency.

However, the jobs market has enjoyed two straight months of solid growth, with the unemployment rate falling to a three-year low of 8.3 percent in January, Reuters reported.

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About 38.7 percent of respondents in the Conference Board survey said jobs were hard to get this month, down from 43.3 percent in January. The share of consumers viewing jobs as plentiful rose to 6.6 percent from 6.2 percent the prior month, Reuters reported.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120228/us-consumer-confidence-jumps-dramatically-februa