The Conference Board's consumer confidence index, which had dipped last month, rose briskly in January to 96.8 (1985=100), up from 91.7 in December. The expectations index rose to 108.1 from 103.3. The present situation index increased to 80 from 74.3. "Consumer confidence is now at its highest level since July 2002, when the index registered 97.4," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "Growing optimism about the overall health of the economy continues to bolster consumers' short-term outlook. But consumers' assessment of current conditions, which strongly hinges on improvements in the labor market, remains both weak and volatile." Consumers' assessment of present-day conditions was more favorable in January than in December. Those describing current business conditions as good increased to 22 percent from 18.6 percent. Those claiming conditions had deteriorated declined to 22.8 percent from 24.5 percent. Those saying jobs are hard to get...
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