Consumer confidence rises to 57.9 in April

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Americans’ confidence in the economy rose in April to its highest level since September 2008, just as the financial crisis escalated, according to a private research group.

The upbeat reading, combined with bullish earnings reports this week from companies ranging from Whirlpool Corp. to UPS Inc., offers more hope the economic rebound is gathering steam. Meanwhile, a key home price index reported its first annual increase in more than three years, though it’s too early to say the housing market is recovering.

In morning trading, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 13.07 points, or 0.1 percent, to 11,191.96, as fresh worries about Greece’s debt problems and China’s latest move to slow a hot economy dampened investor enthusiasm over upbeat earnings reports and increasing confidence.

The Conference Board, a private research group based in New York, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence index increased to 57.9, up from a revised 52.3 in March. The April reading is the highest since September 2008’s 61.4. That was when the financial crisis intensified with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, sending confidence into freefall the following month. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters were expecting a reading of 53.5.

The index – which measures how shoppers feel about business conditions, the job market and the next six months – had been recovering fitfully since hitting an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009.

Economists watch the number closely because consumer spending including health care and other major items, accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

Associated Press