U.S. consumers are becoming increasingly optimistic about an economic recovery, a preliminary reading of the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index showed.

The consumer sentiment index rose to 94.2 in January from 88.8 in December, the University of Michigan said. The consensus forecasts called for a reading of 89.3, according to



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The current conditions index, which measures consumers' views of their present financial conditions, inched lower to 98.1 in January from 99.0 in December. But importantly, the expectations index, which gauges their attitudes for the year ahead, rose sharply to 91.7 in January from 82.3 in December.

Since a low of 81.8, after the Sept. 11 attacks, the consumer sentiment index has been rising. Friday's report comes in the wake of data that suggest the economy may be nearing a corner. Yesterday, the Labor Department said jobless claims fell to their lowest level in six months, in the week ended Jan. 12. And January's Philadelphia Fed Index, a regional manufacturing index, had its first positive reading in a year.