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Consumer confidence rebounds strongly in December

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WASHINGTON -- Americans ended the year much more optimistic about the economy, with consumer confidence rebounding strongly in December after tumbling the previous two months because of the partial government shutdown, the Conference Board said Tuesday.

The group's consumer confidence index jumped to 78.1 this month, up from 72 in November. The increase exceeded analyst expectations for a rise to 76.8.

The December figure was close to the 80.2 level the index reached in September before partisan battles in Washington led the federal government to partially shut down for 16 days the following month.

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Recent upbeat economic data led consumer feelings about current economic conditions -- one component of the index -- to hit their highest level since April 2008, the Conference Board said.

"Despite the many challenges throughout 2013, consumers are in better spirits today than when the year began," said Lynn Franco, the group's director of economic indicators.

The index was at 58.4 in January as consumers were hit with higher taxes following the expiration of a payroll tax cut. The highest reading of the year was 82.1, in June.

Consumers in December were more optimistic about the job market and overall economy.

Respondents who said jobs were “hard to get” fell to 32.5%, from 34.1% in November. And expectations rose for hiring in the months ahead, with the percentage of consumers anticipating more job growth increasing to 17.1% in December, from 13.1% the previous month.

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