Consumers Show Good Cheer

Confidence surges in December as a key consumer barometer posts its first gain since July.
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Happy holidays, indeed.

Consumer confidence surged in December, posting its first gain since July, according to the Conference Board.

The business group's closely watched index jumped to 102.4 in December, from 90.5 in November, easily surpassing economists' consensus forecast of 94.0.

Consumers felt demonstrably better about both current and future economic conditions. The expectations index rose to 99.9 from 90.2, while the present-situation index increased to 105.9 from 96.3.

"The continuing economic expansion, combined with job growth, has consumers ending the year on a high note," the Conference Board said. "The most significant contributor to the rebound in confidence has been the overall improvement in current conditions over the past 12 months. And consumers' outlook suggests that the economy will continue to expand in the first half of the new year."

The board's data showed that the employment picture also improved in December. The percentage of consumers saying jobs are plentiful increased to 19.4% from 17.1%, while the number claiming jobs are hard to get declined to 26.4% from 28.0 in November.