Consumer Confidence Offers Mixed Economic Picture

Consumers’ inflation expectations rose significantly in March and their income expectations soured,  according to the Conference Board, a combination that will likely impact spending decisions. The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased in February, declined in March. The Index now stands at 63.4 (1985=100), down from 72.0 in February. The Present Situation Index improved to 36.9 from 33.8. The Expectations Index decreased to 81.1 from 97.5 last month.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey®, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by The Nielsen Company, a leading global provider of information and analytics around what consumers buy and watch. The cutoff date for March’s preliminary results was March 16.

Said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: “The sharp decline in confidence was prompted by a sharp decline in expectations. Consumers’ inflation expectations rose significantly in March and their income expectations soured, a combination that will likely impact spending decisions. On the other hand, consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved, indicating that while the short-term future may be uncertain, the economy continues to expand.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved in March, the Conference Board said.. Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased to 15.1 percent from 12.4 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” decreased to 37.0 percent from 39.3 percent. Consumers’ appraisal of the job market, however, was slightly less favorable than in February. Those saying jobs are “hard to get” edged up to 44.6 percent from 44.4 percent, while those stating jobs are “plentiful” dipped to 4.4 percent from 4.9 percent.

Consumers’ short-term outlook was considerably less favorable than in February, the Conference  Board reports. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months declined to 20.6 percent from 25.2 percent, while those anticipating business conditions will worsen increased to 16.2 percent from 10.3 percent. Consumers were also more downbeat about the labor market. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 19.9 percent from 21.2 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs rose to 20.7 percent from 15.0 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes declined to 15.3 percent from 17.4 percent.



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