The University of Michigan-Thomson Reuters consumer-sentiment gauge rose to a final February reading of 77.6 — the highest level since November — from a final January reading of 73.8, reports said Friday.
Conflicting forces worked on consumers in February: gasoline prices increased, but claims for jobless benefits fell. Additionally, higher payroll taxes kicked in this year and consumers face ongoing uncertainty about how massive federal spending cuts will impact their personal finances.
The sentiment gauge, which covers how consumers view their personal finances as well as business and buying conditions, averaged about 87 in the year before the start of the most recent recession.
Elsewhere Friday morning, the government reported that consumer spending rose in January, despite higher payroll taxes. However, economists say that less take-home pay may exert downward pressure in coming months.