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Consumer confidence soars to 18-month high

By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A key measure of consumer confidence jumped to its highest level in 18 months, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 57.9 in April. That's up from a downwardly revised 52.3 in March.

Economists were expecting the index to increase to 53.5, according to a Briefing.com consensus survey. The measure is closely watched because consumer spending makes up two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.

Concerns about business and job market conditions continued to ease, said Conference Board director Lynn Franco in a statement. She added that "continued job growth" will really be the key to keeping the momentum going.

Despite April's increase, the index still remains at historically low levels. An overall reading above 90 indicates the economy is solid, and 100 or above indicates strong growth.

The report is based on a survey mailed to a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.

Job market outlook: The percentage of respondents expecting more jobs in the next six months rose to 18% in April from 14.1% in the prior month.

Similarly, those saying jobs are "hard to get" fell to 45% from 46.3% in March, while responses that jobs are "plentiful" ticked up to 4.8% from 4%.

Business conditions: Consumers anticipating business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 19.8% from 18% in March, the report said.

Respondents expecting conditions to worsen in the months ahead fell to 12.6% from 13.6%.  To top of page

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