Second only to March U.S. employment numbers, due out (no fooling) on Friday, April 1, economic eyes this week will be focused on the Conference Board's latest look at consumer confidence. The New York-based business research group's Consumer Confidence Index for March is scheduled to be released at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 29.
The big question is whether rising gasoline prices have begun to cause consumers to reconsider their spending. It's a significant question, since consumer spending accounts for about two-thirds of all U.S. economic activity. Merrill Lynch & Co., New York, figures that the 32-cent increase in the retail price of a gallon of gasoline between Jan. 1 and March 24 amounts to a $45 billion yearly drag on U.S. household cash flow.