NEW YORK -- A private research group says that consumer confidence retreated in January after two straight months of big gains.
The Conference Board is reporting Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index now stands at 61.1, down from a revised 64.8 in December. Economists had expected a reading of 68. The index had surged from 40.9 in October to 64.8 in December.
The Conference Board says that even though consumers were more upbeat about jobs, they were less optimistic about income prospects. Rising gas prices have also taken a toll on sentiment.
A reading of 90 indicates a healthy economy, a level the index hasn't approached since December 2007 when the recession began.
Economists watch the confidence numbers closely because consumers' spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.