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US consumer confidence retreats in March

[WASHINGTON] US consumer confidence retreated sharply in March, confounding expectations that the rebound in the prior month would continue, according to a private survey released Tuesday.

That decline, which included a more pessimistic view of current business and employment conditions, was accompanied by a slightly less positive outlook for the economy, according to The Conference Board survey.

The consumer confidence index fell seven points to 124.1, erasing much of the 10-point gain in February and defying economists' forecasts for a slight uptick.

"Confidence has been somewhat volatile over the past few months, as consumers have had to weather volatility in the financial markets, a partial government shutdown and a very weak February jobs report," said Lynn Franco of The Conference Board.

"However, the overall trend in confidence has been softening since last summer, pointing to a moderation in economic growth."

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That is in keeping with signals in the economic data that the US economy has peaked amid a broader slowing in major countries, like China, which prompted the Federal Reserve to pledge to hold off on any further interest rate increases for now.

The confidence survey showed fewer consumers describe business conditions as "good" and less see jobs as "plentiful," and those same shifts were reflected in the outlook for six months in the future.

However, Franco said even with the slowing, consumers "remain confident that the economy will continue expanding in the near term."

And Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said the dip in confidence "looks like an anomaly."

While "views of both business conditions and the labor market deteriorated sharply ... we doubt this marks the start of a sustained downward trend; a rebound is more likely in April," he said in a research note.


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