Economic reports paint a mixed picture of the U.S. economy Tuesday.

U.S. consumer confidence soared in May, hitting its highest level in eight months.

An industry group, the Conference Board, said its index of the way average people view the economy rose more than 14 percentage points to a reading of 54.9.

Experts said consumers were encouraged by low mortgage interest rates and improvements in the stock market.

A separate report showed U.S. home prices continued falling in the first three months of this year.

The report from Standard and Poor's/Case Schiller shows home prices dropped around 19 percent from the same period one year ago.

Economists and investors watch home prices closely because serious problems in the U.S. housing market played a key role in sparking the current economic crisis.  

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.