The consumer confidence index plunged in March, dropping to 64.5 from an upwardly revised 76.4 last month, the Conference Board reported yesterday.

The February index reading was originally reported as 75.0.

Economists polled by IFR Markets predicted the index would slip to 73.0.

The present situation index fell to 89.2 from an upwardly revised 104.0, originally reported as 100.6, while the expectations index decreased to 47.9 from an upwardly revised 58.0 last month, originally reported as 57.9. The expectations index is at a 35-year low.

“Consumers’ confidence in the state of the economy continues to fade and the index remains at a five-year low,” dating back to March 2003, when it was 61.4, according to Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s consumer research center.

“The decline in the present situation index implies that the pace of growth in recent months has weakened even further. Looking ahead, consumers’ outlook for business conditions, the job market, and their income prospects is quite pessimistic and suggests further weakening may be on the horizon,” Franco wrote. “The expectations index, in fact, is now at a 35-year low (December 1973, 45.2), levels not seen since the oil embargo and Watergate.”

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