U.S. consumer confidence rose again in February as COVID-19 cases fall

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Consumer confidence rises for second straight month

 U.S. consumer confidence rose again in February as an accelerating COVID 19 vaccine push provides hope for Americans who have lived through a year of unprecedented restrictions.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 91.3, up from 88.9 in January.

COVID-19 cases in the United States have declined for the sixth consecutive week, with daily cases and hospitalizations falling to the lowest level since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The pace of vaccination is also picking up.

Consumers’ assessment of the job market was also mixed. While fewer of those surveyed said they expected more job opportunities in the coming months, those who thought there would be fewer prospects also declined.

Slightly fewer consumers expect their incomes to increase in the next six months, but fewer see their incomes declining.

The consumer confidence index, which is closely watched by businesses and economists because consumer spending makes up about 70% of U.S. economic activity, had been over 100 for nearly 4 years before the pandemic struck last spring. The metric has mostly languished in the 80s and 90s since then, except for two month this fall.

The percentage of consumers who said business conditions are “good” increased from 15.8% to 16.5%, while the proportion claiming business conditions are “bad” fell to 39.9% from 42.4%. Consumers’ views of the labor market also improved.

The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months fell to 31% from 34.1%. Those expecting conditions to worsen, however, also declined.