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March 27, 2018 11:00 AM, EDT

Consumer Confidence Eases for First Time This Year

Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg News

U.S. consumer confidence declined in March for the first time this year on tempered optimism about the outlook for the economy, according to figures March 27 from the New York-based Conference Board.

Highlights of March Consumer Confidence Report

• Confidence index fell to 127.7 (estimated 131) from a revised 130 in February that was the highest since late 2000.

• Present conditions measure cooled to 159.9 from 161.2.

• Consumer expectations gauge dropped to 106.2 from 109.2.

Key Takeaways

The softening in March reflected smaller shares of respondents who expect better business conditions, higher incomes and more job availability in the next six months. Fewer also said they anticipate stock prices will be higher in the year ahead.

Even with the dip in sentiment, the share of consumers who said jobs are currently plentiful climbed to the highest level since April 2001.

The biggest share of respondents since the end of 2000 said present business conditions are good. At the same time, there was also an uptick in those who said conditions were bad. The figures show moods remain fairly upbeat amid a strong labor market and bigger after-tax paychecks that have the potential to drive consumer spending.

Economist Views

“Despite the modest retreat in confidence, index levels remain historically high and suggest further strong growth in the months ahead,” Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board, said in a statement.

Other Details

• 23 % of consumers said they expect better business conditions in next six months, down from 25% in February.

• Share of households who expect incomes to rise in next six months decreased to 22%, from 23.5%.

• Share of those who said more jobs will be available fell to 19.1% from 22.4%

• Buying plans showed fewer anticipate the purchase of major appliances, new cars and new homes.

35.4% said they expect stock prices to rise in the year ahead, down from 40.1 % and smallest share since November 2016.

• 71.9% see higher interest rates, the biggest share in a year.

With assistance by Alexandre Tanzi