Consumer confidence hits 17-year high, jobs driving optimism

By Paul Wiseman Economic Indicators Associated Press

(Reuters)

American consumers are the most confident they've been in nearly 17 years.

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The Conference Board says its consumer confidence index hit 125.9 in October, up from a revised 120.6 in September and the highest reading since December 2000.

The index measures consumers' assessment of current conditions and their outlook for the next six months. Both rose in October.

A healthy job market contributed to the sunny mood. Unemployment is at a 16-year low 4.2 percent.

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Economists monitor confidence because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic output. The economy grew at a healthy 3 percent annual pace from July through September.

The October confidence readings "suggest the economy will continue expanding at a solid pace for the remainder of the year," Conference Board economist Lynn Franco says.

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