Art Collections Hold Value
(Bloomberg News) London's February series of evening contemporary-art auctions raised 56.2% more than last year, boosted by works by Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol, and phone bidding from a widening range of international clients.

The auctions at Sotheby's, Christie's International and Phillips de Pury & Co. raised 155.1 million pounds ($251 million), up from 99.3 million pounds last year, according to Bloomberg News calculations.

"There's a feeling among investment-driven collectors that art has been tested and it's passed," Anders Petterson, founder of the London-based research company ArtTactic, said. "People have been surprised how quickly the market has recovered and how blue-chip works have held their value."

Dealers said the sales were helped by Russian and Asian buyers and the sale of the 43.7 million pounds of contemporary works from a private collection. These boosted the Sotheby's total to 88.3 million pounds. Christie's raised 61.4 million pounds, the most for a contemporary-art auction in the U.K. capital since July 2008, as New York dealer Larry Gagosian paid 10.8 million pounds for a Warhol self portrait. Two years earlier, during the financial crisis, the auction house's entire sale raised 8.4 million pounds. Phillips added 5.4 million pounds to the tally.

In the summer of 2008, at the peak of the contemporary art market boom, equivalent London sales totaled 205.4 million pounds. Then the catalogs proliferated with works by fashionable favorites such as Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Richard Prince, whose values declined by up to 50% during the crisis. Now classic pieces by Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Gerhard Richter predominate, supported by an ever-changing roster of younger names that appeal to international buyers.

"The whole system has changed," the London-based dealer Alan Hobart said after seeing most of the lots at Sotheby's and Christie's fall to telephone bidders represented by lines of more than 50 employees.

"The auction houses know where the big clients are and they're becoming more dominant," said Hobart, who spent 6.3 million pounds on a sculpture and a painting by Alberto Giacometti.

Consumer Confidence At Three-Year High
(Bloomberg News) Confidence among U.S. consumers rose in February to the highest level in three years as Americans became more optimistic about their incomes and the economy.

The Conference Board's index of sentiment increased to 70.4, the highest since February 2008, from 64.8 the prior month, figures from the New York-based private research group showed on February 22. Economists projected the gauge would be little changed at 65.5, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.

A pickup in optimism and job gains may encourage Americans to increase purchases, bolstering consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy. At the same time, unemployment at 9% or higher for almost two years and mounting home foreclosures threaten to restrain households.