WASHINGTON – American consumers were feeling more confident this month after a rally in the stock market and an end to partial shutdown of the federal government.
The Conference Board, a business research group, says its consumer confidence index rose to 131.4 from 121.7 in January. It was the first increase after three straight drops.
The index measures consumers' assessment of current economic conditions and their expectations for the next six months. Both rose in January. Consumers' views of today's economy were the sunniest since December 2000.
"Consumers expect the economy to continue expanding," says Lynn Franco, the Conference Board's senior director of economic indicators.
The Conference Board index had dropped in January amid worries about a government shutdown that ended Jan. 25 and stock-market volatility, which reflected higher interest rates and worries about trade tensions with China. But stocks have rebounded since Christmas, and U.S. and Chinese trade negotiators have reported signs of progress toward ending a standoff.
Economists pay close attention to the index because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity. Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the February reading suggests "continued robust growth in consumers' spending."