Consumer confidence climbed last week to reach the highest level in a year, providing further evidence that the economy is beginning a more robust recovery, according to the latest Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index. The data also suggest consumers are more willingly taking on debt in response to an easing of credit decisions
by banks and lenders. The index increase to -39.8 in the period ending February 12, up from -41.7 the previous week. The figure marked the third time in nearly four years that it rose above minus 40, placing it on par with pre-recession figures. "Rising incomes, a slower pace of firings in the economy and a modest wealth effect due to the near bull market in equities likely combined to create the conditions that sent economic pessimism to its lowest reading in over a year," said Joseph Brusuelas, a senior economist at Bloomberg in New York. Mild improvements in the housing market, with higher-than-expected gains in housing starts, also contributed to the uptick in consumer confidence, particularly regarding the troubled housing sector. Earlier this week, the National Association of Home Builders reported builder confidence reached the highest level in four years.