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Consumer confidence rises in January

Pedestrians carry shopping bags while walking along 5th Avenue in New York.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pedestrians carry shopping bags while walking along 5th Avenue in New York.

A key measure of consumers' attitudes was better than expected this month.

The Consumer Confidence index hit 98.1 in January, up from a revised 96.3 in December 2015, The Conference Board said Tuesday. Analysts expected a reading of 96.5 in January, unchanged from the previous month, according to Thomson Reuters consensus estimates.

"Consumers' assessment of current conditions held steady, while their expectations for the next six months improved moderately," Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a release. "For now, consumers do not foresee the volatility in financial markets as having a negative impact on the economy."

The monthly survey, a closely-followed barometer of economic health, measures the attitude of American consumers toward current overall conditions, future expectations and the job market. Consumers' spirits have been lifted by healthy hiring and falling gas prices, the Associated Press reported.

From October through December, employers added a robust average of 284,000 jobs a month, the AP said. The unemployment rate remained at a seven-year low 5 percent in December. The average price of a gallon of gasoline has reached $1.83 from $2 a month ago, according to AAA.

A large share of consumers surveyed—27.2 percent—said business conditions were good this month, compared to 18.5 percent who said conditions are bad.

The assessment of January's labor market was mixed, but slightly more positive than in December.

The proportion of consumers that see jobs as "hard to get" declined to 23.4 percent from 24.5 percent for the month, according to the survey, though those that saw jobs as "plentiful" also declined.

But more people now foresee an improving job market than in December: Those anticipating more jobs increased to 13.2 percent this month. Still, a greater share—16.5 percent—still expect fewer jobs in the months ahead.

Looking forward, more consumers expect business conditions to improve than to worsen in the next six months, according to the trade group.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.