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The index of consumer sentiment unexpectedly rose to 73.4, much higher than economists had forecast, from 67.4 in November, according to the report released Friday. The December figure exceeds the average of 65 for the first nine months of the year.
Separately, U.S. retail sales rose 1.3% in November, the Commerce Department said Friday. The figure was almost twice as much as the 0.7% increase Wall Street had expected.
Improved sentiment may have helped spending as the numbers suggest consumers were buying aggressively during the crucial holiday shopping season, helping to sustain a fragile economic recovery entering 2010.