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Consumer Confidence Jumps

Sentiment hits high not seen since February 2008.

Consumers have just about shaken off the recession — at least psychologically.

A stronger-than-expected rise in shopping sentiment pushed this month’s reading of The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index to levels not seen since February 2008, when the recession was just beginning.

 The index advanced to 73.7 for November, up from 73.1 in October. Economists projected a much smaller gain to 73.2.

“Over the past few months, consumers have grown increasingly more upbeat about the current and expected state of the job market, and this turnaround in sentiment is helping to boost confidence,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the research group.

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Of the consumers surveyed, 11.2 percent said jobs were “plentiful,” an increase from the 10.4 percent who felt that way in October.

The Expectations Index, which makes up half of the overall index, rose to 85.1 from 84.  The Present Situation Index, which makes up the other half of the index, slipped modestly to 56.6 from 56.7.

The good consumer vibes headed into the holiday season did little to boost stocks, though, as investors continued to fret over the looming fiscal cliff — a toxic combination of automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to hit at the end of the year.

At 10:45 in on Wall Street, The S&P 500 Retailing Industry Group was down 0.2 percent, or 1.51 points, to 667.46 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.3 percent, or 41.87 points, to 12,925.50.

Among the decliners were Avon Products Inc., down 1.3 percent to $14.12; Tumi Holdings Inc., 1.1 percent to $22.10; Kohl’s Corp., 0.7 percent to $51.53; Ann Inc., 0.7 percent to $32.53, and Sears Holdings Corp., 0.6 percent to $46.61.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development raised fresh concerns about the fiscal cliff today. “The world economy is far from being out of the woods,” said Angel Gurría, secretary-general. “The US ‘fiscal cliff’, if it materializes, could tip an already weak economy into recession, while failure to solve the euro area crisis could lead to a major financial shock and global downturn.”