Washington — Americans are feeling better about the economy, home prices are on the rise and companies are forecasting a brighter 2010.
While no one doubts the economy has a long way to go to come back from the punishing recession, the reports Tuesday were signs of progress for a recovery that has proceeded in fits and starts.
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction,” said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics at Moody’s Economy.com. “But on the other hand, we’re moving there from a very low point. And we’re still at a very low point.”
Consumer confidence rose in January for the third straight month, the Conference Board said Tuesday. People said they felt better about the economy and were more willing to buy big-ticket items like cars and refrigerators.
The group’s consumer confidence index now stands at its highest level since the financial meltdown in September 2008. But at 55.9, it’s a far cry from readings of 90 or higher that indicate an economy on solid footing.
Consumer sentiment, a gauge of Americans’ willingness to spend money on everything from Valentine’s cards to vacations, is closely watched by experts because personal spending fuels 70 percent of the U.S. economy.