U.S. consumer confidence rises in February

Consumer confidence increased in February as consumers became more optimistic about business conditions and the labor market, according to The Conference Board.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index increased to 70.8 in February from 61.5 in January. A reading of 90 or higher indicates a healthy economy.

The index measures how shoppers feel about business conditions, the job market and the next six months. Economists watch the index closely because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity and is a critical part of a strong rebound.

Those expecting business conditions to improve during the next six months rose to 18.7 percent from 16.7 percent, and those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased from 14.6 percent to 11.8 percent.

Additionally, 18.7 percent expect more jobs during the next six months compared with 16.4 percent in January, and those expecting fewer jobs dropped from 19.1 percent to 16.9 percent.

"Consumer confidence, which declined last month, posted a sizeable improvement in February," says Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "The Index now is close to levels last seen a year ago. Consumers are considerably less pessimistic about current business and labor market conditions than they were in January. And, despite further increases in gas prices, they are more optimistic about the short-term outlook for the economy, job prospects and their financial situations."

Date : 3/12/2012