The most recent index of consumer confidence released by the Conference Board, a private research group, shows increasing optimism in the economy and job market. The August index surpassed economists’ expectations and scored its highest reading since October 2007, before the recession began. As Americans become more hopeful about their financial situation and availability of jobs, analysts believe that it will have a positive effect on both the housing market and consumer spending – both important drivers of economic activity. So far, however, the improvement hasn’t resulted in any significant increase in personal spending, likely due to a lack of wage growth. On the other hand, recent housing reports show positive gains for local real-estate markets and many experts are forecasting continued progress this fall, as the market becomes more balanced and offers buyers more choices and better affordability conditions. Economists surveyed prior to the release of the index forecast a decline in confidence from the month before. More here.