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Consumer confidence climbs to highest level since April

Dec 30, 2011 Philip Burgess

Consumer sentiment surged in December to reach the highest level since April, according to a report released Tuesday by the Conference Board. The CB's Consumer Confidence Index climbed to 64.5 points, up from 55.2 in November and higher than all estimates in recent a Bloomberg News survey. The most recent reading is also beginning to approach February's post-recession high of 72. The holiday shopping season, drops in gasoline prices and a dip in the national unemployment rate have all contributed to the uptick in consumer optimism. "A large part of the problem in the economy is one of confidence, and to the extent that sentiment begins improving it would be a positive for growth," said Dana Saporta, director of U.S. economic research at Credit Suisse in New York, told Bloomberg. "There are still a lot of headwinds out there, including the continued decline in home prices." However, mounting uncertainty stemming from Europe's debt crisis may continue to chip away at consumer sentiment in 2012 and tighten lenders' credit decisions.