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March US consumer confidence cools from record heights
[WASHINGTON] US consumer confidence dipped in March, retreating from an 18-year high as public optimism about the economy moderated, according to a monthly survey released Tuesday.
Consumer views of present conditions, especially the business environment, as well as expectations for the future, dimmed slightly but remained strong, suggesting the economy's current good run will extend, according to the Conference Board.
Survey respondents were notably less rosy about how much longer Wall Street will remain at its current dizzying heights.
The consumer confidence index fell 2.3 points to 127.7 from February's downward revised level.
"Despite the modest retreat in confidence, index levels remain historically high and suggest further strong growth in the months ahead," Lynn Franco, the Conference Board's head of economic indicators, said in a statement.
The present conditions index fell 1.3 points to 159.9 while the expectations index dropped three points to 106.2.
Among the wealthiest, or households making more than US$125,000 per year, the index rose to 151.4 points, its highest level since November.
For the poorest, or households subsisting on less than US$15,000 a year, the index dropped to 66.8, its lowest level since October.
The share of consumers saying conditions were "good" rose 1.4 percentage points to 37.9 per cent but those saying conditions were "bad" jumped 2.1 points to 13.4 per cent.
In a sign of the current tight labor market, the survey also found those claiming jobs were plentiful actually rose 0.8 points to 39.9 per cent while those saying they were "hard to get" sank a token two tenths to 15.1 per cent.
But consumers are less rosy about future job markets. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead dropped 3.3 points to 19.1 per cent and those expecting jobs to become more scarce rose two tenths to 12.5 per cent.
The share of those expecting higher incomes in the coming months also fell 1.5 points to 22 per cent.
Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics, which was not involved in producing the survey, said in a client note he expected confidence to fall in the coming months but said the index had already overstated consumer spending recently.
"A correction would not necessarily signal a slowdown in spending growth," he wrote.