US consumer confidence surges

02-28-2012, 15h40

Americans were much more upbeat about the state of the economy this month, a well-watched private survey showed Tuesday, fueling cautious optimism about plainer sailing ahead.

Feelings about the current state of the labor market, the broader economy and expectations about its future trajectory all increased, according to The Conference Board.

"Consumer confidence, which had declined last month, posted a sizeable improvement in February. The index is now close to levels last seen a year ago," said Lynn Franco of the Board's research department.

The Board's consumer confidence index stood at 70.8, up a hefty 9.3 points from the prior month.

Consumer spending accounts for more than two thirds of the US economy, so any bump in confidence is seen as a sign of better times ahead.

But since the the Great Recession, the link between consumer confidence and spending appears to have been dulled, leading to some economists to warn that expectations should not run wild.

"The index has been a poor guide to spending over the past year so we aren't going to get carried away," said Ian Shepherdson, chief US economist at High Frequency Economics.

Shepherdson warned that there was still time for higher oil prices to dull sentiment, even as the jobs situation improves.