NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Consumer sentiment improved in December from a month ago, the Conference Board reported Tuesday, hitting its highest point since 2007.
Some economists, however, were looking for a sharper rise. The Conference Board said its consumer-confidence index registered 52.9 in the holiday month, up from November's 49.5.
According to a survey of economists by
, the expected reading for December was 54. A similar survey by Thomson Reuters was closer to the mark: it saw the index coming in at 52.
In December 2007, the index hit 75.8. A reading of 90 is generally construed as the measure that indicates a humming economy.
"A more optimistic outlook for business and labor market conditions was the driving force behind the increase," said Lynn Franco, the Conference Board's director of research, in a statement.
Franco went on to sound cautious notes when it comes to spending expectations for the near future, with job security and personal finances at the forefront of consumers' minds.
"Regarding income," she said, "consumers remain rather pessimistic about their short-term prospects, and this will likely continue to play a key role in spending decisions in early 2010."
-- Written by Scott Eden in New York
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Scott Eden has covered business -- both large and small -- for more than a decade. Prior to joining TheStreet.com, he worked as a features reporter for Dealmaker and Trader Monthly magazines. Before that, he wrote for the Chicago Reader, that city's weekly paper. Early in his career, he was a staff reporter at the Dow Jones News Service. His reporting has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Men's Journal, the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, and the Believer magazine, among other publications. He's also the author of Touchdown Jesus (Simon & Schuster, 2005), a nonfiction book about Notre Dame football fans and the business and politics of big-time college sports. He has degrees from Notre Dame and Washington University in St. Louis.