Consumer confidence rebounds to six-year high

Consumer confidence rebounded in March to a six-year high on expectations that the sluggish economic recovery will pick up pace heading into the spring. 

The Conference Board’s index increased to 82.3 in March from 78.3 last month, the highest level since January 2008, just after the recession started.

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"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.

Consumers were slightly more upbeat about future job prospects and the overall economy, although they were less optimistic about income growth, Franco said.

"Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead,” she said.

The present situation index, which had been on a steady rise for several months, edged down to 80.4 from 81.0, while the expectations index increased to 83.5 from 76.5.

The index is watched because confidence is closely tied to spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.

Consumers saying business conditions are “good” increased to 22.9 percent from 21.2 percent but that improvement was slightly offset by an increase to 23.2 percent from 22 percent of those claiming business conditions are "bad."

The view of the labor market remained steady with those saying jobs are “plentiful” decreasing slightly to 13.1 percent from 13.4, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” increased slightly to 33 percent from 32.4 percent.

Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead edged up to 13.9 percent from 13.7 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs fell to 18 percent from 20.9 percent. 

Confidence would be bolstered by a faster pace of jobs growth, which many economists expect to pick back up again after slowing up during the winter.

Meanwhile, the percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 18.1 percent from 17.3 percent, while those anticipating business conditions to worsen declined to 10.2 percent from 13.6 percent.

The index showed that consumers expecting their incomes to grow declined to 14.9 from 15.8 percent, but those anticipating a decline in their incomes also decreased, to 12.1 percent from 13.4 percent.

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