The latest word from the Conference Board is that consumers aren't nearly as disenchanted as they had seemed in January. The board's confidence index bounced back 8.6 points in February, reaching 97.0, after having plunged more than 10 points in January.

"The bounce back of consumer sentiment in February suggests that the drop registered last month was largely a result of one-time circumstances ... rather than a signal from consumers that severe economic hardship was on the way," said Edgar R. Fiedler, vice president and economic counselor of the group.

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