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Consumer confidence improves

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — American consumer confidence jumped this month on a better outlook for hiring and overall growth, supporting other signs that show the economy could accelerate in 2014.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its index of consumer confidence rose to 78.1 in December, up from 72 in the previous month. November's figure was revised up from 70.4.

Consumer confidence is nearly back to where it was before the partial government shutdown in October. Steady job gains and a surging stock market have made Americans more optimistic about the economy and hiring both now and in the next six months.

“The upbeat consumer mood bodes well for spending in 2014,” said Michael Dolega, senior economist at TD Economics.

Optimism about the job market is at a five-year high. That is a positive sign for a strong December jobs report, which will be released next week.

Olindy Cinada, 24, of Newport News, Va, says he's seen “a lot more job openings in the past month.”

In fact, he was hired in December as a meter reader for the Newport News Waterworks, the regional water provider owned and operated by the city. As a result, he and his wife are planning to buy a home next year.

A better job market could also drive more consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity.

A last-minute surge of online shopping helped boost overall holiday spending, according to MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse report. Sales from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24 rose 3.5 percent compared with last year, the firm said last week.

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