Conference Board March index unexpectedly falls

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The consumer confidence index decreased to 124.1 in March from an unrevised 131.4 last month, The Conference Board reported Tuesday.

IFR Markets predicted a 132.0 reading for the index.

The present situation index dropped to 160.6 from a downwardly revised 172.8, first reported as 173.5, while the expectations index fell to 99.8 from an upwardly revised 103.8, first reported as 103.4.

“Consumer Confidence decreased in March after rebounding in February, with the Present Situation the main driver of this month’s decline,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for The Conference Board. “Confidence has been somewhat volatile over the past few months, as consumers have had to weather volatility in the financial markets, a partial government shutdown and a very weak February jobs report. Despite these dynamics, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue expanding in the near term. However, the overall trend in confidence has been softening since last summer, pointing to a moderation in economic growth.”

Business conditions were called “good” by 33.4% of respondents in March, down from 40.6% of respondents in February. Those saying conditions are “bad” grew to 13.6% from 11.1%.

The percentage of consumers expecting a pickup in business conditions in the next half year slid to 17.7% from 19.6%, while 9.3% said they expect conditions to worsen, up from 9.2% in the prior month.

On the jobs front, those who believe jobs are “plentiful” dipped to 42.0% from 45.7% in last month, while the number saying jobs are “hard to get” rose to 13.7% from 11.7%. The respondents who see fewer jobs becoming available in a half year, rose to 13.4% from 12.3%. Those expecting more jobs to become available dropped to 16.4% from 19.0%, The Conference Board reported.

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

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