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US Consumer Confidence Dips in March, U of M Survey Confirms

H.S. Borji
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US consumer confidence slipped in March, as more Americans were concerned about the overall health of the economy following a difficult winter.

The consumer confidence index, courtesy of Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan, was revised upward from 79.9 to 80 in March, but remained well below the reading of 81.6 the month before. Economists in a Reuters poll forecast a reading of 80.6.

Consumer confidence, which measures personal confidence in economic activity, is used to index consumers’ willingness to spend money.

A weaker appraisal of the current situation continued to drag on consumer confidence in March. Consumer expectations, which rose sharply in February, weakened this month, survey data showed.

Compared to the previous month, the survey’s gauge of current economic conditions rose from 95.4 to 95.7, while the barometer of consumer expectations eased from 72.7 to 70. One-year inflation expectations remained unchanged at 3.2 percent. The five-year inflation outlook. was also unchanged at 2.9 percent.

A report from the Conference Board this week said consumer confidence in March rose to the highest level since January 2008.

Economists expected consumer confidence to improve this month amid signs household spending was on the rise. US retailers reported a sharp rebound in sales in February, official data from the Commerce Department showed this month. Retail sales edged up 0.3 percent in February, after declining 0.6 percent at the beginning of the year.

The Commerce Department said today personal spending rose 0.3 percent in March, while incomes rose by the same level. Consumer spending is expected to increase in the spring as warmer weather and improving finances unleash pent-up demand.

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