The numbers: Americans grew more confident in the economy in February amid a sharp decline in coronavirus cases, but they were still worried about how long the effects of the pandemic will linger.
The index of consumer confidence rose to a three-month high of 91.3 in February from a revised 88.9 in January, the Conference Board said Tuesday.
Economists polled by Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal had forecast a small increase to 91.0.
Other measures of confidence, including the consumer-sentiment survey and daily report by Morning Consult, have also been moving higher. The Morning Consult poll is part of the MarketWatch Coronavirus Recovery Tracker
Consumer confidence is still far below pre-pandemic levels, however. The index stood at 132.6 before the viral outbreak last year.
What happened: An index that tracks how consumers feel about the economy right now rose for the first time in four months — to 92 from 88.5.
“This course reversal suggests economic growth has not slowed further,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the nonprofit board.
Yet another gauge that assesses how Americans view the next six months —the so-called future expectations index — slipped to 90.8 from 91.2. That reflects ongoing uncertainty about the path of the virus even as more and more Americans get vaccinated.
One positive sign: The number of people planning vacations increased again, especially for those who intend to fly or travel outside the U.S.
The big picture: The economy is on the mend again after a coronavirus-induced soft spell at the end of last year. Yet the pace of growth will be dictated by how quickly the vaccines are administered and the virus begins to fade. For now the answers are still unclear.
Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average
and S&P 500
fell in Tuesday trades as investors awaited the latest comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. He was set to testify Tuesday morning in the U.S. Senate.