NEW YORK (AP) _ Consumer confidence bounced back in April, nearing a 29-year high as Americans regained their optimistic outlook that the U.S. economy will continue to grow at a healthy pace.

Stocks also made a broad comeback in early trading today, with the Dow Jones industrial average climbing back toward the 9,000 mark after Monday's steep selloff. The Dow, which fell 146.98 Monday after being down nearly 224 points, was up 54.31 at 8,971.95 this morning. Broader indexes also rose sharply.

The Conference Board reported today that its index of consumer confidence rose to 136.7 in April from a revised 133.8 in March, topping Wall Street analysts' expectations for the month.

The index reached 137.4 in February, its highest level since June 1969.

``The upturn in confidence strong suggests that the U.S. economy will continue its solid, stable growth,'' said Lynn Franco, associate director at the Board, a New York-based private research group. ``While the current pace of economic growth could slow, there continues to be a little chance of either an economic cooling or overheating in months ahead.''

Consumer sentiment is important because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the nation's overall economic activity.

Consumers felt most confident about the economic outlook for the next six months, pushing the Board's expectations index up 7.6 points to 115.5. The present situation index, however, slipped back 4.2 points to 168.5.