Americans' confidence in the economy rose to a five-month high in November and showed increased optimism for the first half of next year.

The report offered some comfort to retailers during the holiday shopping season, but shoppers still remain downbeat as they grapple with a high unemployment rate. Moreover, the report on housing released yesterday showed that home prices weakened in September.

The Conference Board, a private research group based in New York, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 54.1 in November, up from a revised 49.9 in October.

The November reading is the highest since June's 54.3, when the economy's recovery started to lose momentum. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected 52.0. A level of 90 indicates a healthy economy.

One index component, how Americans feel now about the economy, rose to 24.0 from 23.5. The gauge measuring how Americans feel about the economy over the next six months rose to 74.2, up from 67.5 last month.

"Consumer confidence is now at its highest level in five months, a welcome sign as we enter the holiday season," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement.

Paul Dales, U.S. economist at Capital Economics, was less optimistic: "The rise in consumer confidence in November is not consistent with a sustained acceleration in consumption growth at a time when income growth is weak, the unemployment rate is high and a double dip in house prices is under way." - AP

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