Consumer confidence

Water bottles on display at a trade show last week in Salt Lake City. (George Frey / Bloomberg / January 23, 2014)

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Consumer optimism about the economy increased in January for the second consecutive month as Americans shook off the effects of last fall's partial federal government shutdown, the Conference Board said Tuesday.

The organization's consumer confidence index increased to 80.7 this month from a downwardly revised 77.5 in December. Economists had expected a smaller increase, to 79.

The index inched above the level it hit in September before a partisan budget standoff in Washington caused the federal government to close for 16 days in October and caused confidence to plunge.

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The index dropped to 72 in November before rebounding. It now is at its highest level since August.

"All in all, confidence appears to be back on track and rising expectations suggest the economy may pick up some momentum in the months ahead,” said Lynn Franco, the organization's director of economic indicators.

Consumers' view of current conditions improved, with 21.5% saying business conditions were good compared with 20.2% in December. Those who said jobs were plentiful rose to 12.7% from 11.9% last month.

Expectations for the next six months also brightened, with 12.1% anticipating conditions to worsen. That was down from 13.9% last month. And consumers were more upbeat about their income -- 15.8% expect it to rise compared with 13.9% last month.

But expectations for the labor market were mixed.

Consumers expecting more jobs in the next six months dropped to 15.4% from 17.1%. At the same time, 18.3% of consumers said they anticipated fewer jobs, down from 19.4% in December.

"Americans are feeling more optimistic on the employment and personal income fronts in January," said Chris G. Christopher Jr., director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight.

"This is good news for retailers since many outlets had a rough ride in the last quarter of 2013," he said.

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