Although Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, insists U.S. consumers "are still quite confident," the fact is that the New York-based business research group's consumer confidence index, which declined in February, fell further in March. The index now stands at 102.4 (1985=100), down from 104.4 last month.
Consumers generally believe current economic conditions remain favorable, and their short-term outlook suggests little short-term change, insists Franco. "In fact, while expectations have lost some ground, consumers anticipate the job market will continue to improve, and easing employment concerns should help keep spending on track."
Yet, the Conference Board's detailed data show consumers of two minds. For example, this month those characterizing current business conditions as good rose to 25.8% from 24.6% in February, but those claiming conditions are bad also increased, to 16% this month from 15.7% in February. Similarly, consumers expecting business conditions to improve during the next six months increased to 19.2% this month from 17.9% in March, but those expecting conditions to worsen also increased, to 8.2% this month from 7.8% in February.
The Conference Board's consumer confidence index is derived from a monthly survey based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households and is conducted by TNS NFO.