The Conference Board said on March 25 its index of consumer confidence declined to 64.5 points from 76.4 a month earlier. That was sharply below the level of 73.4 points expected by economists.
The survey -- which often is seen as a gauge of consumer spending, which represents the bulk of U.S. economic activity -- showed the weakest confidence since the start of the U.S. invasion in Iraq.
Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board consumer research center, said: "Consumers' confidence in the state of the economy continues to fade and the index remains at a five-year low."
In an even more ominous sign, the survey's expectations index declined to 47.9 from 58.0. Franco said: "Looking ahead, consumers' outlook for business conditions, the job market and their income prospects is quite pessimistic and suggests further weakening may be on the horizon. The expectations index, in fact, is now at a 35-year low, levels not seen since the (1973) oil embargo and Watergate."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008