NEW YORK -- Consumer confidence soared past analysts' expectations in April, helped by a brightening job picture.
The consumer confidence index rose to 92.9, up from a revised 88.5 in March, the Conference Board reported yesterday. The increase was the largest one-month rise since a 10.8-point gain in November 2003.
Consumer confidence has been choppy in recent months. In March, the index was unchanged from the previous month, after rising to 97.7 in January.
Economists closely follow consumer confidence because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States.
''If we don't get consistent job growth, spending growth will be at significant risk," said Scott Hoyt, director of consumer economics for Economy.com, a forecasting firm in West Chester, Pa.
In the consumer confidence survey, consumers expecting more jobs to become available in the next six months increased to 18.2 percent from 15.7 percent.
Analysts expect the April unemployment rate -- set to be released Friday -- to remain unchanged at 5.7 percent.
Wall Street, stymied once again by interest rate worries, gave up a healthy early advance and closed mixed. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 33.43 points to 10,478.16, after gaining more than 90 points earlier in the session. In the broader market, the Nasdaq Composite index slipped 4.24 to 2,032.53 while the Standard & Poor's index rose 2.58 to 1,138.11.