January consumer confidence jumps to 60.6 (by Ruth Mantell)
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- An index of U.S. consumer confidence jumped to 60.6 in January, reaching the highest level since May, with more consumers optimistic about income and jobs, as well as current business conditions, the Conference Board reported Tuesday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a confidence reading of 54.8. "Consumers rated business and labor-market conditions more favorably and expressed greater confidence that the economy will continue to expand and generate more jobs in the months ahead," said Lynn Franco, director of Conference Board's consumer research center, in a statement. "Although pessimists still outnumber optimists, the gap has narrowed." Confidence in December reached an upwardly revised 53.3, compared with a prior estimate of 52.5. A barometer of consumers' expectations rose to 80.3 in January from 72.3 in December. Meanwhile, consumers' assessment of the present situation increased to 31 - the highest level in more than a year -- from 24.9. The Conference Board's index helps analysts compare fluctuations in confidence, with a reading of 100 for the base year of 1985. Generally when the economy is growing at a good clip, confidence readings are at 90 and above.