Consumer confidence in the metropolitan area rose in February despite worries about gasoline prices and the impact of federal sequestration budget cuts.

The Siena College Research Institute Wednesday reported its consumer confidence index for Long Island, New York City and its northern suburbs was at 82.4 last month, an increase of 4.4 points from January.

This was the highest level for the index since November 2012, when it stood at 83.1.

Siena pollster Douglas Lonnstrom said, "Although February's news was replete with dire sequester prophesies, consumer sentiment rebounded."

Readings above 76 indicate that the number of people who are optimistic about their financial future surpasses those who are pessimistic.

Still, metro-area residents continue to worry about gasoline prices. Fifty-one percent said last month that pump prices were either a somewhat or very serious problem. That's 3 percentage points higher than in January.

However, concern about the cost of food dipped in February, with 66 percent saying grocery prices were a somewhat or very serious problem. Seventy percent said this in January.

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Retailers follow consumer confidence indexes because they often signal a willingness by consumers to open their wallets more frequently. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, both locally and nationwide, several economists said.

When asked about big-ticket purchases between now and August, residents across New York State said they were more likely than a year ago to buy an automobile, furniture, a home or start a major home improvement project. They said they were less likely to buy a computer.

At the Broadway Mall in Hicksville Wednesday, some shoppers complained about energy prices. Margie Short, a retired teacher, said, "I've had to cut back on other things just to keep filling up my car's gas tank."