By John S. McClenahen Although inflation, relatively high fuel prices, rising interest rates and continued unrest in the Middle East would seem to give U.S. consumers reason to be economically cautious, the Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index soared an unexpectedly large 8.8 percentage points in June. The index now stands at 101.9, up from 93.1 in May. "Looking ahead, consumers expect the economy to continue to grow at a healthy clip and to continue to generate additional jobs," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "And with prices at the pump beginning to ease, the short-term outlook remains favorable," Franco adds. The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households and is conducted for the Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, by TNS NFO.