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Obama's ratings inch up as economy improves: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's approval ratings inched up again this month as Americans grew slightly more optimistic about the economy and the future, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday.

Obama's job approval rating rose to 51 percent from 50 percent in January, and his disapproval rating dipped to 46 percent from 47 percent -- well within the margin of error but continuing an upward trend since October's low of 43 percent.

The improvement for Obama, who is expected to officially open his 2012 re-election campaign in the next few months, came as the economy showed signs of improvement and memories faded of his fellow Democrats' election rout in November, when Republicans captured the U.S. House of Representatives.

The jobless rate dipped to 9 percent in January from 9.4 percent the month before, completing a 0.8 percentage point drop since November that was the biggest two-month decline since 1958.

"The stain of the midterm results is going away for Obama, and there are signs of economic recovery," Ipsos pollster Julia Clark said.

Americans are feeling more confident about the future as the economy improves, the poll found. The number saying the country is headed in the right direction grew to 38 percent from 36 percent the month before.

A majority of Americans, 57 percent, still believe the country is on the wrong track, down from 59 percent.

"The more positively people feel about the economy, the better they feel about Obama," Clark said. "Obama's task as he heads into the campaign is to keep the economy improving and see his approval ratings stay up above 50 percent."

The poll of 1,112 adults, including 844 registered voters, was taken on Friday through Monday and had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points. Interviews were conducted on both land lines and cell phones, in either English or Spanish.

(Editing by Vicki Allen)