WASHINGTON -- Consumer confidence surged in November, buoyed by gains in nearly every region of the country, the Conference Board reported yesterday.

The private research group's consumer confidence index advanced 10.7 points in November to a reading of 71.2, the highest level since January. "An improvement of this magnitude has occurred only rarely in the 25-year history of this survey," the New York-based group said. Despite the big gain, the confidence index is still at an historically low level, the Conference Board said. Economists said, however, that the sizable increase put the index more in line with other recent indicators showing that consumers seem to feel better about the economy because they are spending more on big ticket items, such as homes and cars.

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