Consumer sentiment on the rise in February

Despite the fact that many Americans are still struggling with credit card debt, mortgage troubles and the threat of foreclosure, confidence among U.S. consumers hit its highest level in eight months in February.

The study, which was conducted by Thompson Reuters and the University of Michigan, found its preliminary index of consumer sentiment for the month rose to 75.1, up from the 74.2 percent observed in January.

“2011 has started with a couple of factors that were completely absent in 2010, and one of them is confidence,” Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist at RBC Capital Markets Corp., told Bloomberg. “Now confidence is starting to come back.”

Researchers say rising stock prices and recent declines in unemployment were key factors in the increase, the news source says. In addition, the climb in confidence was consistent with earlier predictions by economists that the index would rise to 75.

Increased consumer spending during the holiday season was also a likely factor as many credit card companies and retailers reported big year-over-year increases in revenue.