U.S. consumer confidence picked up considerably in November as Americans took comfort from falling gasoline prices and better job prospects, according to the Conference Board.

In a report published Tuesday, the Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of consumer moods jumped to 98.9 from 85.2 in October, boding well for the holiday shopping season, when retailers notch up as much as 25 percent of annual sales.

"A decline of more than 40 cents (a gallon) in gasoline prices this month and the improving job outlook have combined to help restore consumers' confidence," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center.

Confidence data are often seen as a possible precursor to consumer spending, although sentiment patterns are not always reflected in actual shopping trends.

"While the index remains below its pre-Katrina levels, the shock of the hurricanes and subsequent leap in gas prices has begun wearing off just in time for the holiday season."

The start of year-end shopping has yielded mixed results so far, but the Conference Board data suggested Americans were heading into the holidays feeling good about their finances.

The Board's present situation index rose to 114.0 from 107.8, while the expectations component soared to 88.8 from 70.1.

Americans also turned more optimistic about the labor market. The proportion of respondents saying jobs were "hard to get" fell to 23.2 percent from 25.3 percent.

The Labor Department releases its monthly employment report on Friday. Economists expect November to show a resurgence in hiring. Their median forecast is for a net gain of 210,000 jobs.

The stock market rose just over 0.5 percent after the confidence figures were released, while government bond prices took a spill.

"These numbers are consistent with the view that the U.S. economy continues to chug along nicely," said Alex Beuzelin, a senior market analyst at Ruesch International.