Consumer sentiment at 2-year high

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumer confidence rose to a two-year high this month as the economic outlook improved, though most had a grim view of their own personal financial and employment prospects, a private report showed on Friday.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its final index of sentiment for January was 74.4, up from December’s 72.5 and higher than analysts’ expectations for 73.0.

That was the highest since January 2008 -- a month after the recent recession started -- and it also beat the preliminary reading for this month of 72.8.

The report follows government data showing the U.S. economy grew 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter, which was the fastest in six years but still failed to dispel concerns about sustainability of recovery amid a 10 percent jobless rate.

“Consumers are overwhelmingly convinced that the worst is over but nonetheless expect stagnating income and job prospects rather than solid growth during the year ahead,” the University of Michigan report said.

The report’s gauge of current economic conditions rose to 81.1 in January from 78.0 in December, hitting its highest since March 2008.

Consumers’ rated their current personal finances the strongest since September 2008, with that index rising to 77 from 73 in December.

However the index of expectations for personal finances fell to 110 from 116, marking the lowest since July 2009.

One-year inflation expectations rose to 2.8 percent -- the highest since October 2009 -- from 2.5 percent in December.

Five-year inflation expectations rose to 2.9 percent from 2.7 percent.

Reporting by Burton Frierson, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama