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Despite the negative news, the Conference Board’s widely watched index of consumer sentiment rose 9.3 percent in February to its highest level in a year.

The index now stands at 70.8, significantly higher than the expected 63. A reading of 90 or above indicates a healthy economy. But the index has not reached that level since December 2007, when the recession began.

Still, Tuesday’s numbers were closer to levels that indicate a stable economy than to the danger zone that would suggest trouble.

“I think that the economy as a whole is pointed in the right direction, it is recovering,” said Mr. Shea.