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Consumer Confidence Falls Slightly In March After February Gain

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The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased in February, pulled back slightly in March. The index now stands at 70.2 (1985=100), down from 71.6 in February. The Present Situation Index, however, increased to 51.0 from 46.4. The Expectations Index declined to 83.0 from 88.4 in February.

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Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions improved in March. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased 14.3% from 13.7%. However, those claiming business conditions are “bad” also increased, to 32.7% from 31.7%. Consumers’ assessment of the job market was mixed. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” increased to 9.4% from 7.0%, while those stating jobs are “hard to get” also rose, to 41.0% from 38.6%.

Consumers were less optimistic about the short-term outlook than they were last month. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 19.2% from 18.9%. However, those anticipating business conditions will worsen also rose, to 13.5% from 11.8%.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was moderately less upbeat. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead decreased to 17.3% from 18.8%, while those anticipating fewer jobs increased to 18.3% from 16.4%. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes improved slightly to 15.8% from 15.5%.

“Consumer confidence pulled back slightly in March, after rising sharply in February,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “The moderate decline was due solely to a less favorable short-term outlook, while consumers’ assessment of current conditions, on the other hand, continued to improve. The Present Situation Index now stands at its highest level in three-and-a-half years (61.1, Sept. 2008), suggesting that despite this month’s dip in confidence, consumers feel the economy is not losing momentum.”

Nielsen, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch, conducts the monthly Consumer Confidence Survey for the Conference Board, based on a probability-design random sample. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was March 15.

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