U.S. consumers' mood brightened in early January, but was still significantly less optimistic than a year earlier, a report showed on Friday.
The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers index of confidence rose to 80.5 from December's 75.5, topping economists' median forecast for a reading of 74.5.
Overall, the data were consistent with personal spending growth of 2 percent in 2008, starting with about a 1 percent growth rate in the first quarter and rising through the rest of the year, the survey reported.
The survey's index of current economic conditions jumped to 98.1, the highest since August, from 91.0 in December.
Consumers still took a negative view of their current finances, however, and were concerned about rising inflation and unemployment, the data showed.
The U.S. economy has been plagued by a housing crisis that spread to mortgage-linked financial assets and crippled the credit system, threatening growth.
"Consumers are very cautious," said Josh Stiles, strategist at IDEAglobal. "I don't see the improved sentiment reading as heralding a big consumer spending turnaround," he said.
The Reuters/University of Michigan reading on consumer expectations rose to 69.1 from 65.6.
Stocks briefly added to early gains on the report, while bond market losses widened.