Consumer confidence grows as shutdown fades

Consumers are feeling more bullish about the economy now that the October government shutdown is firmly in the rear-view mirror.
 
The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its benchmark consumer confidence index rose to 78.1 in December, up from 72 in November. 
 
The rise was driven largely by a change in consumer expectations for future growth. Expectations in the index rose from 71.1 to 79.1.
 
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In the survey, an index of 100 or above would indicate a booming economy.
 
Lynn Franco of The Conference Board noted that the index was approaching the 80.2 level reached before the Oct. 1 shutdown.
 
“Looking ahead, consumers expressed a greater degree of confidence in future economic and job prospects, but were moderately more pessimistic about their earning prospects. Despite the many challenges throughout 2013, consumers are in better spirits today than when the year began,” she said.
 
The confidence numbers come as U.S. stock indexes are poised to record their best years in decades, and as home prices are rising to 2006 levels. Both developments bode well for consumer spending in 2014 and ending an economic slump driven above all by weak demand. 
 
The Conference Board index reflects a similar increase found by the rival Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey, which last week reported confidence reaching 82.5 percent this month, up nearly 10 percent from 75.1 in November.