Consumer confidence rises sharply on optimism about jobs

In a positive sign for the economy, consumer confidence rose sharply in September, according to the benchmark Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index.

The Conference Board Index now stands at 70.3, up from 61.3 in August, to which it had fallen from 65.4 in July.

The survey sampled about 500 randomly selected people nationwide from Sept. 1 to Sept. 13. A score of 100 represents the robust economic sentiment of 1985.

Economists had expected the index to rise, but that the increase would be lower. These expectations pushed oil up on world markets ahead of the report.

The increase in consumer sentiment comes at a time when polls show increasing approval for President Obama's handling of the economy, which could spell trouble for Mitt Romney's election strategy of making the November vote a referendum on Obama's fiscal policies. 

A new CNBC poll released Tuesday found that Obama leads Romney 43 percent to 34 on the question of who would be better for the economy.

"Despite continuing economic uncertainty, consumers are slightly more optimistic than they have been in several months,” said Lynn Franco of The Conference Board.

She said confidence has returned to levels last seen in February.

"Consumers were more positive in their assessment of current conditions, in particular the job market, and considerably more optimistic about the short-term outlook for business conditions, employment and their financial situation," she said.

The August dip was attributed to uncertainty surrounding the economic crisis in Europe and the looming fiscal cliff of tax increases and budget cuts coming at the end of the year.