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U.S. consumer confidence hits six-year high in March

Shoppers look for items in the home improvement department of a Home Depot store in New York April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Shoppers look for items in the home improvement department of a Home Depot store in New York April 13, 2011. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumer confidence rose in March to its highest in more than six years as expectations brightened, according to a private sector report released on Tuesday.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes rose to 82.3, the highest since January 2008, from a upwardly revised 78.3 in February. Economists had expected a reading of 78.6, according to a Reuters poll.

February's figure was originally reported as 78.1.

"Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board in a statement.

"While consumers were moderately more upbeat about future job prospects and the overall economy, they were less optimistic about income growth."

The expectations index rose to 83.5 from an upwardly revised 76.5, while the present situation index fell to 80.4 from a revised 81.0.

Consumers' labor market assessment was slightly more negative in March. The "jobs hard to get" index rose to 33.0 percent from a downwardly revised 32.4 percent in February, while the "jobs plentiful" index dipped to 13.1 percent from 13.4 percent.

Consumers anticipated larger price increases, with expectations for inflation in the coming 12 months up to 5.5 percent in March from 5.2 percent.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)

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