Americans became more optimistic about the economy in January, sending a widely followed measure of consumer confidence to the highest level in about three and a half years, a private research group said Tuesday.

The Conference Board said that its consumer confidence index rose to 106.3, the highest level since June 2002, when the reading was also 106.3. The latest reading was up from a revised 103.8 in December. Analysts had expected a reading of 105 in January.

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