Consumer confidence pushes higher in March

Preliminary estimates of consumer confidence weighed in at 82.3 in March, beating June 2013's figure of 82.1 and reaching a high not seen since January 2008, according to The Conference Board.

Confidence had slipped in the fall and winter, with February's score coming in at an upwardly revised estimate of 78.3. All indications are that consumers are shaking off their winter doldrums and are looking ahead to a sunnier spring and summer season.

“Consumer confidence improved in March, as expectations for the short-term outlook bounced back from February’s decline,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “While consumers were moderately more upbeat about future job prospects and the overall economy, they were less optimistic about income growth. The Present Situation index, which had been on an upward trend for the past four months, was relatively unchanged in March. Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead.”

The disparity between the current and future outlook was apparent in March's Present Situation Index, which came down slightly from 81.0 to 80.4. Those claiming business conditions are "good" -- as well as "bad" -- increased. A slightly lower amount of respondents felt jobs were "plentiful," and those saying jobs are "hard to get" also increased slightly.

Meanwhile, the Expectations Index increased to 83.5 from 76.5. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 18.1% from 17.3%; those expecting them to worsen declined from 13.6% to 10.2%. Slightly more consumers expected more jobs in the months ahead, with those expecting fewer jobs falling nearly 3 percentage points. Fewer consumers expected their incomes to grow, but fewer are also anticipating a decrease in their takehome pay.

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