WASHINGTON (AP) - For the past year, as the presidential election unfolded, President Barack Obama confronted a dizzying swell of economic news - hiring up, hiring down, a euro crisis abroad, seesawing gasoline prices at the pump, foreclosures dragging down home values.
Six weeks before the election, those highs and lows are merging into a straighter line which, while below optimum performance, is moving in a positive direction for the country and for the president in his contest with Republican rival Mitt Romney.
Consumer confidence is at its highest level since February. Home values are up and, more important in the election season, housing prices in 20 major cities, many of them in battleground states, rose in July. Despite recent declines, the stock market has been on an upswing, adding value to Americans' 401(k) retirement plans.
Improving consumer confidence is certainly a positive sign for Obama, who has faced a slow economic recovery and a stubbornly high unemployment rate that has remained above 8 percent since virtually the start of his presidency. The consumer confidence index, as measured by The Conference Board, jumped from 61.3 for August to 70.3 for September, though it remains well below 90, the level that is thought to signify a healthy economy.