NEW YORK - The consumer confidence index dipped to 70.2 in March from an upwardly revised 71.6 last month, The Conference Board reported Tuesday.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predicted the index would be 70.0.

The February index was originally reported as 70.8.

The present situation index rose to 51.0 from an upwardly revised 46.4, originally reported as 45.0, while the expectations index fell to 83.0 from an upwardly revised 88.4, originally reported as 88.0.

“Consumer confidence pulled back slightly in March after rising sharply in February,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board's 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 fell the economy is not losing momentum.”

Business conditions were called “good” by 14.3% of respondents in March, up from 13.7% in February. Those saying conditions are “bad” rose to 32.7% from 31.7%.

The percentage of consumers expecting a pickup in business conditions in the next half year grew to 19.2% from 18.9%, while 13.5% said they expect conditions to worsen, up from 11.8% the prior month.

On the jobs front, those who believe jobs are “plentiful” rose to 9.4% in March from 7.0% in February, while the number saying jobs are “hard to get” increased to 41.0% this survey from 38.6%. The respondents who see fewer jobs becoming available in a half year, rose to 18.3% from 16.4%. Those expecting more jobs to become available slipped to 17.3% from 18.8%, The Conference Board reported.

Income expectations were mixed, with 15.8% of consumers anticipating an increase in their income in the next six months, up from the prior month's 15.5%, while 14.6% expect their income to decrease, up from 13.0% in the prior month’s survey.

The number of consumers who expected to buy a home in the next six months grew to 4.9% from 4.2%, while the number of respondents planning to buy a car rose to 12.0% from 10.3%. More consumers than last month said they plan to buy a major appliance in the next six months (48.1% vs. 45.4%).

Fewer respondents than last month (44.2% vs. 50.9%) expect to take a vacation in the next six months, but more said they would stay in the U.S. rather than leave the country. Cars rather than airplanes were the preferred mode of travel, by a 23.9%-20.2% margin.

The consumer confidence survey is based on a probability design random sample by the Nielsen Company.

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