U.S. consumer confidence rises to highest level since 2000

American consumers are the most confident they've been since 2000, according to the Conference Board's latest Consumer Confidence Survey.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that the consumer confidence index rose to 130.8 in February, its highest level since November 2000 and up from 124.3 in January.

The business research group's monthly index measures consumers' assessment of current conditions and their outlook for the next six months. February's survey found consumers feeling better about today's economy than they have since March 2001. Their outlook also improved.

One big factor: Tax cuts passed into law last year are starting to show up in workers' paychecks.

"As people slowly absorb the details of the tax reform package, opinion polls suggest that it is becoming significantly more popular," Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont Securities, wrote in a research note.

A strong job market is also boosting confidence. The unemployment rate has stayed at a 17-year low 4.1 percent.

Consumers shrugged off volatility in the stock market.

"Overall, consumers remain quite confident that the economy will continue expanding at a strong pace in the months ahead," says Lynn Franco, the Conference Board's director of economic indicators.

Economists watch the Conference Board report closely because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic output.

The overall index hit bottom at 25.3 in February 2009 at the depths of the Great Recession before rebounding as the U.S. economy recovered.

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