1. Business

Florida consumer confidence soars in January

Published Feb. 1, 2012

Floridians greeted the new year with a surge of optimism.

Florida's consumer confidence zoomed up seven points to a reading of 77, matching the high point reached in January 2011, according to a University of Florida survey released Tuesday morning.

"We are beginning the year with the same pattern as last year, where there were relatively steady increases in confidence from the end of the summer," said Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The results mirrored a University of Michigan survey that showed a substantial rise in confidence in January.

However, a separate national report Tuesday from the Conference Board wasn't as rosy.

The private research group said consumer confidence fell in January after two straight months of huge gains. Even though consumers were more upbeat about jobs, they were less optimistic about income prospects, the Conference Board reported.

A year ago, Florida's surge in optimism didn't last long. Confidence eroded throughout the spring and hit a low of 61 in August while Congress was debating the debt ceiling.

This time, the improvement was wide-ranging, with more optimism across various income and age groups as well as political parties. The sole exception was lower-income residents, who reported a worsened perception of their personal finances.

One of the main components used in the index — a gauge of whether people felt better off financially than a year ago — rose four points to 60. That's the highest figure since March 2008, but still relatively low compared to times of economic prosperity.

The consumer confidence index is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2; the highest is 150.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.