Lower gasoline prices and an increase in the number of available jobs have boosted consumer confidence in the US, according to latest figures.

The Conference Board Research Center says its confidence index rose to 103.6 points in December from a revised 98.3 in November, beating forecasts.

The battering by Hurricane Katrina, which devastated large parts of the Gulf Coast at the end of August, left the US economy potentially fragile, but the latest numbers reveal increased optimism about 2006.

Comments Conference Board director Lynn Franco: "The resiliency of the economy, recent declines in prices at the pump, and job growth have consumers feeling more confident at year-end than they felt at the start of 2005. Consumers are confident that the economy will continue to expand in 2006."

Debt-fuelled consumer spending accounts for around two-thirds of the US economy.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff