Keeping Track: consumer confidence

A hard-to-quantify but closely watched indicator has joined the growing number of signs that the economy is recovering. The Conference Board's consumer confidence index, based on a monthly survey of some 5,000 US households, surged in March to its highest level in seven months.

The result exceeded expectations by many analysts, who credited the increase to the brightening job outlook. The index is important because confidence helps drive consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the nation's economic activity. The index compares results to its base year, 1985, when it stood at 100.

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