Consumers are increasingly confident about current and future conditions, according to the Conference Board's December Consumer Confidence Index released today. 

After clocking in at 72.0 for November, the index advanced 8.5% to 78.1 for December. Analysts had expected an uptick, but their 76.8 point prediction underestimated actual results. The index uses 1985 as its 100-point benchmark.

"Consumer confidence rebounded in December and is now close to pre-government shutdown levels [September 2013, 80.2]," said Lynn Franco, Conference Board's director of economic indicators, in a statement today. "Despite the many challenges throughout 2013, consumers are in better spirits today than when the year began."

The index is comprised of responses from a random sample of consumers. In this latest report, sentiment regarding current conditions reached a five-year high on improved economic and labor markets. 

Looking ahead, 17.2% of those surveyed expect business conditions to improve over the next six months, compared to 14% anticipating tougher times. Consumers also have higher expectations for future employment opportunities, although those expecting fewer jobs (19%) still outweigh those expecting more (17.1%).