U.S. Consumers Less Hopeful About Short-Term Economic Outlook

The Conference Board reported its U.S. consumer confidence index (1985=100) slipped for the second consecutive month, falling to 136.7 in March from February's revised 140.8. Optimism about current economic conditions remains high, but consumers have turned cautious about prospects over the next six months, the Board says. Analysts are waiting to see if a further erosion in confidence triggers a slowdown in consumer spending, but for now a "moderate cutback in consumer spending is unlikely to stifle still-strong economic growth," says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. As for consumers' assessment of current conditions, the percentage of respondents claiming jobs are "hard to get" declined to 10.4% from 11.4% in February. The number of consumers who say jobs are "plentiful" rose to 52.7% in March from 51.2% in February. Consumers' short-term outlook worsened considerably in March, with the percentage expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months dropping to 14.0% from 17.1% in February. The monthly consumer confidence survey covers a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.

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