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Upbeat US Economic Data Reported

The New York-based Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index stands at 52.9, up from 50.6 a month ago, and a marked improvement from a 25.3 reading in February.

The United States has received a triple-dose of encouraging news on consumer confidence, business hiring, and home prices that suggests a fledgling economic recovery is gaining traction.

Emerging from the deepest and longest recession since World War II, Americans' confidence in their nation's economy continues to rebound. The New York-based Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index stands at 52.9, up from 50.6 a month ago, and a marked improvement from a 25.3 reading in February.

"We have posted yet another moderate gain in December, primarily because people are more optimistic about the short-term outlook," said Conference Board researcher Lynn Franco.

Fueling that optimism are signs that double-digit unemployment in the United States will recede in coming months.  A survey of U.S. employers shows that 20 percent expect to hire full-time workers next year, up from 14 percent in 2009. Unemployment reached a high of 10.2 percent in October and currently stands at an even 10 percent. Although month-to-month fluctuations are possible, most economists expect the jobless rate to gradually decline in the coming year.

Another welcome sign is a stabilization of U.S. home prices. A private reading of home prices edged up .4 percent in October for the fifth month in a row. Eleven of 20 U.S. metro areas showed gains, although housing prices remain significantly depressed from all-time highs recorded in 2006.

David Blitzer of Standard and Poor's, helped compile the data.

"We are seeing some small gains in home prices. Looking at the overall picture, home prices are back to where they were at about 2003," said David Blitzer of Standard and Poor's, who helped compile the data. "I think we will see continuing gains going forward."

Most economists predict a lackluster U.S. economic recovery in 2010. But Jim O'Sullivan, chief economist at MF Global financial firm, says current data point to better times ahead.

"The start of a real recovery," he said. "The question still, of course, is whether that will translate into positive job growth. And I think it will not necessarily immediately, not necessarily next week. But over the next few months we will see positive job growth. And as the year progresses, I think strength will start to feed on itself."

O'Sullivan was speaking on Bloomberg Television.

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