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US Consumer Confidence Surges

Shoppers walk by stores amid higher consumer confidence this month, which jumped to the highest level since February, in Methuen, Massachusetts, September 24, 2012.
Two new reports are pointing to an improving U.S. economy.

A research group, the Conference Board, reported Tuesday that consumer confidence in the U.S. jumped this month, reaching a seven-month high. Rising home values and stock prices may have helped boost the key barometer.

Increased confidence in the U.S. economy could signal that American consumers are inclined to spend more. That is an important factor in the world's largest economy, 70 percent of which is driven by personal purchases, whether for food, computers, household needs or other items.

A separate report by Standard & Poor's and Case-Shiller showed that U.S. housing prices rose 1.2 percent in July from a year earlier, the biggest yearly gain in nearly two years. It was the third consecutive month that housing prices in all 20 cities in the survey had increased.

Despite the advances, unemployment remains high in the U.S., above 8 percent for 43 straight months. Later this week, the government is releasing its latest estimate of how fast the U.S. economy is growing, showing whether it is advancing more than the 1.7 percent pace it earlier disclosed for the April-to-June period.