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U.S. Consumer Confidence Unexpectedly Deteriorates In March


Reflecting a deterioration in consumers' assessment of current conditions, the Conference Board released a report on Tuesday showing an unexpected decrease in U.S. consumer confidence in the month of March.

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index dropped to 124.1 in March after jumping to 131.4 in February. Economists had expected the index to rise to 133.0.

"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," said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board.

"Despite these dynamics, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue expanding in the near term," she added. "However, the overall trend in confidence has been softening since last summer, pointing to a moderation in economic growth."

The unexpected decrease by the headline index came as the present situation index tumbled to 160.6 in March from 172.8 in February.

The percentage of consumers calling business conditions "good" slumped to 33.4 percent from 40.6 percent, while those saying business conditions are "bad" edged up to 13.6 percent from 11.1 percent.

Consumers' assessment of the labor market was also less upbeat, as those saying jobs are "plentiful" dipped to 42.0 percent from 45.7 percent and those claiming jobs are "hard to get" crept up to 13.7 percent from 11.7 percent.

The Conference Board noted consumers' optimism about the short-term future also moderated in March, with the expectations index sliding to 99.8 from 103.8 last month.

The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions will improve over the next six months dropped to 17.7 percent from 19.6 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen remained relatively flat at 9.3 percent.

Consumers' outlook for the labor market was also less favorable, with the proportion expecting more jobs falling to 16.4 percent from 19.0 percent and those anticipating fewer jobs ticking up to 13.4 percent from 12.3 percent.

On Friday, the University of Michigan is scheduled to release its revised reading on consumer sentiment in the month of March.

The consumer sentiment index is expected to be unrevised from the preliminary reading of 97.8, which was up from 93.8 in the previous month.

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