* Consumer confidence index at 44.3 in Feb vs 43.3 in Jan * Price expectations rise to 69.5 pct, highest since Oct 2011 TOKYO, March 12 (Reuters) - Japan's consumer confidence index hit its highest since mid-2007 in February with expectations for price increases rising, in a sign an economic recovery is gradually broadening. The Cabinet Office survey's sentiment index for households of two or more people, which includes views on incomes and jobs, was 44.3 in February from 43.3 in January. A reading below 50 suggests consumer pessimism. The survey also showed 69.5 percent of respondents think prices will climb over 12 months, the highest since October 2011 and up from 65.3 percent the previous month. The survey comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushes aggressive expansionary policies to help shore up the economy and pull it out of nagging deflation. "Higher share prices partly led by Abe's policies helped consumer confidence, which will also support the economic recovery," said Yoshiki Shinke, senior economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. "Although the income situation has not been improved much, private consumption will probably hold solid due to improving sentiment." A recent gasoline price rise and expected increases in imported goods prices due to the yen's weakness, as well as Abe's calling for the Bank of Japan to strive to achieve its 2 percent inflation goal, helped to boost people's expectations of higher prices, Shinke said.