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Consumer confidence jumps
Closely watched measure of consumer sentiment surges more than expected in November.
November 25, 2003: 10:47 AM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Consumer confidence rose higher than expected in November, a research group said Tuesday, driven by signs of a slow improvement in the labor market.

The Conference Board, a business research group based in New York, said its closely watched index of consumer confidence rose to 91.7, the highest level since the fall of 2002, from a revised 81.7 in October.

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Economists, on average, expected the confidence index, based on a survey of 5,000 households, to rise to 85, according to

The survey's "present situation" index jumped to 80.1 from 67.0, while the "expectations" index, measuring consumers' expectations for the future, rose to 99.4 from 91.5.

"The improvement in the present situation Index, especially in the jobs component, suggests that consumers believe a slow but sure labor market turnaround is underway," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "The rise in expectations is a signal that consumers will end this year much more upbeat than when the year began."

Confidence is watched closely by policy-makers and analysts since consumer spending fuels more than two-thirds of the nation's economy.

Still, the report had little impact on Wall Street. U.S. stock prices were slightly lower in early trading, while Treasury bond prices continued to rise.

In a separate report Tuesday morning, the Commerce Department said U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), the broadest measure of the economy, grew at an upwardly revised 8.2 percent annual rate, seasonally adjusted, in the third quarter, surpassing Wall Street forecasts.

And the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously owned homes, the biggest component of the housing market, slowed more than expected in October.

In the Conference Board report, the percentage of consumers saying jobs are "hard to get" fell to 29.5 percent from 33.7 percent. The percentage saying jobs are plentiful rose to 13.2 percent from 11.8 percent.

Consumer Confidence

But the research group also described the employment outlook as "mixed." The percentage of consumers expecting more jobs to become available in the next six months fell to 18.2 percent from 19.6 percent. The percentage expecting fewer jobs to become available also fell, however, to 17.6 percent from 20.4 percent.

The percentage of consumers expecting their incomes to rise climbed to 19.0 percent from 16.9 percent.  Top of page

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