NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Consumer confidence surged last week, reversing a month-long decline sparked by rising gasoline prices.
The ABC News/Money magazine Consumer Comfort Index jumped five points to -15 on its scale of +100 to -100. In 18 years of polling, the index has only risen that sharply 15 times with the last being just after the fall of Baghdad.
This week's five-point gain also erased any lingering traces of a nine-point drop in the index, from -11 in mid-May to -20 last week.
Confidence appears to have been caught between two opposing forces over the past few weeks--jobs data showing the labor market is on the mend on one end and soaring gas and food prices on the other. With pump prices easing, down from $2.06 a gallon in mid-May to roughly $1.94 now, jobs may be starting to win that tug of war.
Thirty-six percent of Americans rate the nation's economy as excellent or good, up from 34 percent the week prior. Consumer confidence peaked at 80 percent on Jan. 16, 2000, but bottomed out at 7 percent in late 1991 and early 1992.
Respondents are feeling better about their fiscal health as 55 percent rate their personal finances as excellent or good, up from 52 percent the previous week. The best was 70 percent on Aug. 30, 1998 and matched in January 2000. The worst was 42 percent on March 14, 1993.
And 37 percent say it's an excellent or good time to buy things they want or need, up from 34 percent a week earlier. The highest level of confidence in this category, 57 percent, was set on Jan. 16, 2000, and the worst, 20 percent, in the fall of 1990.
Although President Bush can't coast just yet, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll suggested that his fortunes may be getting better. This week, 36 percent of respondents say the economy's in good shape, four points below its long-term average. About as many, 37 percent, say it is a good time to buy things and 55 percent think that their own finances are okay, both only two points below average.
Partisan differences have a huge affect on how Americans responded to questions posed by the ABC News/Money magazine poll. The index is -31 among Republicans, but -16 among independents and -44 among Democrats.
The ABC News/Money magazine Consumer Comfort Index represents a rolling average based on telephone interviews with a random sample of about 1,000 adults nationwide each month. This week's results are based on 1,000 interviews in the four weeks ended June 20, 2004, and have an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points.