U.S. consumer sentiment improved markedly in recent weeks amid signs that the war in Iraq was coming to an end, a new report showed Friday.

The University of Michigan's preliminary April index of consumer sentiment jumped to 83.2 from 77.6 in March, market sources told Reuters. That final reading for March was the lowest since September 1993. Economists had forecast a rise to 78.1 for the preliminary April survey.

Many people have been betting that a winding down of the war in Iraq would bolster consumer confidence, which has been at a low ebb owing to concerns about the war and how it would affect the U.S. economy.

The current conditions index, which tracks consumers' attitudes about their present financial situation, rose to a preliminary reading of 94.8 in April from 90.0 in March. The expectations index, which gauges the 12-month outlook, increased to 75.7 from 69.6.

The preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey is based on telephone interviews with 250 households across the country on personal finances and business and buying conditions. The survey is rounded out to a total of 500 interviews for the final release at the end of the month.