U.S. consumers felt more confident about the economy last month than at any time since the September failure of Lehman Brothers that pushed global banking to the brink of collapse, a survey showed on Friday.
The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its final index of confidence climbed to 65.1 in April from 57.3 in March. That was the highest since September 2008 and the biggest one-month increase since October 2006.
The April reading also marked the first yearly increase since July 2007. Economists polled by Reuters had expected a lower final reading of 61.9 for April.
The index of current economic conditions rose to 68.3 last month from 63.3 in March, the best reading in four months. The index of consumer expectations climbed to 63.1 from 53.5, also the highest since September of 2008.
The improvement was concentrated in expectations for the future, especially the longer-term outlook for the economy, said Richard Curtin, the director of the survey.
Most of the gain can be tied to consumers' favorable assessment of U.S. President Barack Obama's stimulus spending, Curtin said. The survey found that 65 percent of consumers thought the stimulus would improve the national economy.
Consumers' inflation expectations also rose, with the reading on the one-year inflation outlook rising to 2.8 percent in April from 2 percent in March. The five-year inflation outlook edged up to 2.8 percent from 2.6 percent.
Wall Street <.SPX> pared losses after the data while U.S. government debt prices fell, with the 30-year Treasury bond down more than a full point.
Despite the overall improvement in sentiment, though, consumers remained anxious about jobs, the survey showed. Some 53 percent of consumers questioned in April expected the jobless rate to increase, a slight improvement over 61 percent who answered this way the prior month.
The U.S. unemployment rate stood at 8.5 percent in March, a 25-year high, according to government data. The April reading will be released next week.
(Reporting by Steven C. Johnson; Editing by James Dalgleish)