NEW YORK -- The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index, which had declined dramatically over the past three months, rebounded with unanticipated strength in December.

The Index now stands at 93.7, up from 84.9 in November. The Expectations Index rose sharply, from 77.3 to 91.5. The Present Situation Index increased slightly, from 96.2 to 96.9.

“The deterioration in current economic conditions appears to be reaching a plateau, led by a stabilizing employment scenario,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. “Consumers' short-term optimism is no longer at recession levels, and the upward trend signals that the economy may be close to bottoming out and that a rebound by mid-2002 is likely.”

The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.