A private group has said that US consumer confidence jumped this month to the highest level since February, bolstered by a brighter hiring outlook.

The US Conference Board's consumer confidence index rose to 70.3 - up from 61.3 in August, which was revised higher.

The reading is the highest since February, when the economy added 259,000 jobs.

The indicator is watched closely because consumer spending drives nearly 70% of economic activity. The reading is still below 90, a level that indicates a healthy economy.

Since the beginning of the year, the index has fluctuated sharply. The survey was conducted from September 1 until September 13. It showed consumers were more optimistic about the current availability of jobs and their outlook over the next six months.

Home prices rose in July in 20 major US cities

Home prices kept rising in July across the US, buoyed by greater sales and fewer foreclosures.

The Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller index reports that national home prices increased 1.2% in July compared with the same month last year. That is the second year-over-year gain in a row after two years without one.

The report also said that prices rose in July from June in all 20 cities tracked by the index. That is the third consecutive month in which prices rose in every city.

Steady price increases and record-low mortgage rates are helping drive a housing recovery in the US.

Prices in the Phoenix, one of the cities hardest hit by the housing bust, have increased 16.6% in the 12 months ending in July. Prices in Minneapolis and Detroit have risen more than 6%.