U.S. consumer confidence rebounded in March while a closely watched housing index showed home prices rose in January for the eighth straight month, bolstering hopes for a sustainable economic recovery.
The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes rose to 52.5 in March from an upwardly revised 46.4 in February, driven by a slight increase in optimism about the labor market.
The median of forecasts from analysts polled by Reuters was for a March reading of 50.0.
The expectations index rose to 70.2, from a revised 62.9. The present situation index rose to 26.0, the most since May 2009, up from a revised 21.7 in February.
Consumers' labor market assessment improved. The jobs hard to get index declined to 45.8 from 47.3 percent, while the jobs plentiful index increased to 4.4 percent from 4.0 percent.
Stocks on Wall Street held gains after the consumer confidence data. U.S. Treasury prices and the euro pared losses.
This consumer report will add credence to the economic recovery school of thought, said Jim Awad, managing director at Zephyr Management in New York. Its logical that with the economy improving and stocks going up consumer confidence would improve. The real question is what happens next year after the stimulus is removed, but in the short-term this is good news.
Separately, Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price indexes showed prices of U.S. single-family homes rose in January, with the annual rate moving the closest it has been to an increase in three years.
The S&P composite index of 20 metropolitan areas unexpectedly rose by 0.3 percent, seasonally adjusted, matching the December increase.
On an unadjusted basis, prices declined 0.4 percent in January. S&P has said that foreclosures can skew the seasonal adjustments.
A 0.3 percent drop for the adjusted and a 0.2 percent decline for the unadjusted index were the median forecasts from Reuters surveys.
It looks like there is an underlying recovery in house prices going on. The numbers are in line with market expectations and a bit stronger than my expectations and I would say, broadly speaking, this is quite encouraging for the housing market, said David Sloan, economist with 4CAST Ltd in New York.
(Editing by Theodore d'Afflisio)