A modest rise in consumers' expectations about the short-term economic outlook as well as their incomes lifted the Conference Board's consumer confidence index for April more than expected to 68.1 from 61.9 in March.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S expected the metric to rise to 60.8 from 59.7 in March. Despite the increase, the index remains well below its long-term average of 92.
The board's present situation index rose to 60.4 from 59.2, and its expectations index improved to 73.3 from 63.7 last month.
“Consumer confidence improved in April, as consumers’ expectations about the short-term economic outlook and their income prospects improved," Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the board, said. "However, consumers’ confidence has been challenged several times over the past few months by such events as the fiscal cliff, the payroll tax hike and the sequester. Thus, while expectations appear to have bounced back, it is too soon to tell if confidence is actually on the mend.”
Capital Economics economist Amna Asaf attributed the gain to less expensive gasoline and the ongoing rally in share prices.
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Last month, the Conference Board reported that the consumer confidence index fell in March from February's level because of a declining view of current conditions and declining expectations.
Separately, the overall level of consumer confidence declined in April from March, hitting a three-month low, according to a Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey released on Monday.