U.S. consumer confidence eased in February but remained above year-ago levels, the Conference Board (search) said.

The Conference Board's gauge of consumer confidence eased to 104.0 in February from a revised 105.1 in January. The Conference Board had earlier reported January at 103.4

The index was above economists' forecast for a February reading of 102.9.

The group's Present Situation Index rose to 116.4 from a revised 112.1, while the Expectations Index eased to 95.7 from a revised 100.4.

"Although expectations cooled this month, consumers are more optimistic today than they were a year ago," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center. The confidence index was 88.5 in February, 2004.

"Consumer confidence about current economic conditions, including the labor market, continues to gather momentum," Franco said, adding "despite recent fluctuations, both present and future indicators point toward continued expansion in the months ahead."

The Conference Board's measure of how many respondents found jobs hard to get slipped to 22.6 in February from a revised 24.3 in January.

"The improving job situation is big in supporting their view of their present situation," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's Ratings Services (search) in New York.