By Agence France-Presse U.S. consumer confidence took the biggest leap in 14 months in December, ending a five-month slide and raising hope for economic expansion in 2005, the Conference Board said Tuesday. The private research group's consumer confidence index, compiled from a survey of 5,000 households, soared 9.7 points to 102.3 -- the highest level since August. It was the steepest increase since October 2003. Confidence is crucial because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of economic activity. "The continuing economic expansion, combined with job growth, has consumers ending the year on a high note," said Conference Board consumer research chief Lynn Franco. The share of consumers saying jobs were "plentiful" rose to 19.4 % from 17.1 %, while those saying jobs were "hard to get" dipped to 26.4 % from 28.0 %, the Conference Board said. Looking six months ahead, the proportion expecting fewer job openings fell to 15.5 % from 19.3 %. But those anticipating more opportunities eased, as well, to 16.2 % from 17.6 %. In November, the U.S. economy generated just 112,000 jobs -- barely more than half the number expected on Wall Street -- after a surge of 303,000 in October, according to the latest data. The unemployment rate dipped 0.1 percentage points to 5.4 %.