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Consumer confidence at highest level in 5 years

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 7:33 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Americans' confidence in the economy rose to its highest level in more than five years, bolstered by a more optimistic outlook for hiring.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index jumped to 81.4 in June. That's the best reading since January 2008. And it is up from May's reading of 74.3, which was revised downward from 76.2.

Consumers' confidence in the economy is watched closely because their spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.

The report shows consumers are more positive about current economic conditions and have a more optimistic view of the economy and job market in the next six months.

Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said that “suggests the pace of growth is unlikely to slow in the short term, and may even moderately pick up.”

Employers added 175,000 jobs in May, nearly matching the average monthly gain for the past year. That's enough to slowly lower the unemployment rate. The rate ticked up to 7.6 percent last month but has fallen 0.6 percentage points in the past year.

More Americans see signs of hiring taking place. Nearly 12 percent describe the number of jobs available as “plentiful,” the most since September 2008.

And nearly 20 percent of consumers expect there will be more jobs in six months, while only 16.1 percent expect fewer jobs. That's the first time those expecting more jobs have outnumbered those expecting fewer since February 2012.

Rising home prices are also likely making Americans feel wealthier and more confident about spending. Home prices jumped 12.1 percent in April compared with a year ago, according to the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index, also released Tuesday.

Slightly more consumers said they planned to buy a car in the next six months. The percentage saying they planned to buy a home also ticked up.

Americans have been resilient this year, despite tax increases and steep government spending cuts. Consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in two years in the first three months of the year. That helped the overall economy grow at a 2.4 percent annual pace during the January-March quarter.

Economists forecast that overall economic growth is slowing to a 2 percent annual pace in the April-June quarter, in part because they expect consumers have eased up on spending from the robust first-quarter pace.

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