(AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
WASHINGTON (AP) A private research group finds Americans more confident in the U.S. economy than at any point in the past five years, thanks to surging home values, a brighter job market and record-setting stock prices.
The Conference Board says its gauge of consumer confidence jumped to 76.2 this month. That's up from a reading of 69 in April and is the highest level of confidence since February 2008, two months after the Great Recession officially began.
Further gains in consumer confidence could help the economy withstand the effects of higher taxes and federal spending cuts that kicked in this year. Spending by consumers drives about 70 percent of economic growth.
A separate report today shows U.S. home prices jumped 11 percent in March compared with a year ago, the sharpest 12-month increase in nearly seven years. Prices rose year over year in all 20 cities in the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller home price index.
Those reports are pushing stock averages higher, extending this year's explosive rally.