July 28, 2004 -- As the country ramps up for a political face-off in November, consumers delivered some good news for the Republican incumbents on Tuesday: they like where the economy is headed.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that the Consumer Confidence Index for July hit 106.1, a significant jump from 102.8 in June and the index's best result since June 2002.

"Consumers are telling us that the economy is growing and they expect it to grow even more," said Lynn Franco, Director of the Board's Consumer Research Center, noting that confidence levels have also increased over four consecutive months. "That's good news for any kind of business."

Each month, the Conference Board, a private research firm, surveys 5,000 U.S. households to gauge its Consumer Confidence Index, a figure that reflects how consumers interpret the economic health of the country.

Consumers' confidence in the economy appeared to be cresting at a two-year high.

Not all the figures released by the Conference Board were positive, however, in particular the 19.1 percent of respondents who thought that business conditions were "bad." The figure represented almost a two-percent hike from June.

Nonetheless, Franco credited the growth in employment figures for the overall level of confidence in the economy. The survey results showed an increase in the number of consumers who felt that jobs were "plentiful," rising to 19.8 percent from 18.3 percent in June. Those that expected fewer jobs to be available made up only 26.2 percent, compared to 25 percent a month earlier.

Tuesday's Consumer Confidence Index figures followed a similarly upbeat report from the McDonald Financial Group's quarterly Affluent Consumer Confidence Index, which found that 72 percent of respondents believed the economy is moving in the right direction and that "jobs are plentiful."

"Unless the labor market conditions sours or an unexpected event occurs, there is enough strength in the economy to hold confidence at its current levels," Franco said. "We're really seeing a boost in people's expectations."