American consumers shrugged off higher gasoline prices in July and grew a bit more optimistic about the economy, a private research group said on Tuesday.

The New York-based Conference Board said its confidence index rose to a better-than-expected reading of 106.5 from a revised 105.4 in June. Analysts had expected the index to fall slightly to 104.

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Consumer confidence has been volatile this year, with the index posting declines both in February and May amid pessimism about the job market. This year's overall performance is in line with the rebound seen since last November in the aftermath of last year's Gulf of Mexico hurricanes, however.

The Present Situation Index, which measures how shoppers feel now about economic conditions, rose to 133.0 from 132.2. The Expectations Index, which measures consumers' outlook over the next six months, edged up to 88.8 from 87.5 last month.

"Consumer confidence continues to hold steady, with the prognosis little changed from last month," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Present-day conditions remain favorable, though not as strong as earlier this year. Expectations for the months ahead remain cautious and also below levels earlier this year."

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