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U.S. consumer confidence jumped more than expected in February. The Conference Board’s index climbed to 69.6, exceeding all forecasts in a Bloomberg survey of economists, from a revised 58.4 in January, data from the New York-based private research group showed today. It was the first improvement in four months and the biggest since November 2011.

“The job market is healing, we’re creating enough jobs to at least keep the unemployment rate stable,” Ryan Sweet, a senior economist at Moody’s Analytics in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said before the report. “House prices are rising, and that’s helping to improve confidence.” Economists at Moody’s Analytics are the most accurate consumer-confidence forecasters in the two years through January, according to Bloomberg calculations.

A median forecast of 76 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected an increase to 62. Estimates ranged from 58 to 66.5. The measure averaged 53.7 in the recession that ended in June 2009.

The share of consumers expecting more jobs to become available in the next six months rose to 16.7 percent in February from 14.4 percent the previous month.

The share of respondents who expect an increase in their income in the next six months climbed to 15.7 percent, the highest since October.

The number of respondents who said jobs are currently plentiful advanced to 10.5 percent in February from 8.5 percent. The share saying jobs are hard to get rose to 37 percent from 36.6 percent.

Buying plans were more mixed. The share forecasting they will purchase a car climbed, while intentions to buy a house or major appliances fell.

Still, headwinds remain. A decrease in take-home pay from a higher payroll tax had been dragging down consumer confidence. Americans earning $50,000 a year are taking home about $80 less a month after the tax used to pay for Social Security benefits increased to 6.2 percent from 4.2 percent starting last month.

Posted in: Government News
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