WASHINGTON -- Orders to U.S. factories for costly goods rose a bigger-than-expected 2 percent in December while a key gauge of consumer confidence improved in January for a second straight month. The reports suggested better days may be ahead for the battered economy.
The New York-based Conference Board reported Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 97.3 in January. The surprisingly strong gain followed an increase in December to 94.6.
"While the economy has not turned around yet, the worst may well be over," said Conference Board research director Lynn Franco.
The Commerce Department said the December rebound in orders for durable goods, items expected to last at least three years, followed a steep 6 percent decline in November.
The gain in orders was better than the 1.5 percent increase many analysts had been expecting.