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US Consumer Confidence At Highest In 4½ Years

And the percentage of Americans who say jobs are "plentiful" rose to 11.2 percent from 10.4 percent in the previous month. That's the highest level in four years and a good sign for hiring this month.

More Americans said they plan to buy a home, an appliance or take a vacation, the survey found. About 6.9 percent said they planned to buy a home, the highest on record. But the percentage expecting to buy a car fell.

Confidence among households earning $50,000 and higher slipped to 88 from 91.7 in October. But among the poorest households, those earning less than $15,000, confidence jumped to 56.2 from 50.2.

Many of the participants in the Michigan survey said they expect the unemployment rate to drop over the next six months. Still, some expressed concerns about the "fiscal cliff," a package of sharp tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect next year unless Congress and the White House can replace them. The tax increases would leave consumers with much less money to spend.

A better housing market may also be contributing to consumers' better mood.

Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller reported Tuesday that its 20-city index of home prices rose 3 percent in September compared with the same month last year. Prices also gained 3.6 percent in the July-September quarter compared with the same quarter in 2011.

Across the nation, prices increased in 18 of 20 cities over the 12-month period.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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