Consumer confidence rebounds in March

By Annalyn Censky, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A key measure of consumer confidence rose in March after a sharp fall the month before, a research group said Tuesday.

The Conference Board, a New York-based research group, said its Consumer Confidence index rose to 52.5 in March from 46.0 in February.

Economists surveyed by Briefing.com were expecting the index to rise to 51. A reading of above 90 indicates a stable economy, while 100 or greater signals strong growth. The Consumer Confidence Index is closely monitored because consumer spending drives two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.

The slight increase in March after February's slip signals that consumers are less pessimistic about the economy, although they're not entirely optimistic either, observers say.

"The bounceback is basically in line with expectations, and the underlying details were pretty decent," said Adam York, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities. "At least it gives us some feeling that consumers are feeling a little better about the job market."

Indeed, consumers were less pessimistic about jobs than the month before, with 45.8% claiming jobs were "hard to get," down slightly from 47.3% in February. Still, only 4.4% said jobs were "plentiful," up from 4% the month before.

"Until we begin to see sustainable turnaround in the labor market, we're not going to experience the same in consumer confidence," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "If we begin to add jobs, that's going to go a long way toward boosting confidence levels and alleviate some concern about income."

The index showed more optimism on that front, as the number of consumers who anticipate more jobs opening up in the months ahead rose, and the number of those expecting fewer jobs fell.

The latest confidence numbers come on the heels of a separate report Monday that showed personal spending rose for a fifth straight month in February.

The confidence index, which is based on a survey of 5,000 households, has been recovering slowly, but steadily for the most part, since reaching a record low of 25.3 in February 2009. Its downward blip last month was likely due to weather and concerns about Greece's debt, analysts said.

Consumer confidence in March was also boosted by a slight increase in the component that measures consumer attitudes about the economy right now. The number of consumers who describe current business conditions as "bad" decreased to 42.8% from 45.1% in February. That said, only 8.6% say conditions are "good."

The number of consumers expecting business conditions to worsen over the next six months edged down to 13.9% in March, and the number of those expecting to see an improvement increased to 18.3%. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,279.74 13.75 0.08%
Nasdaq 4,579.79 -13.64 -0.30%
S&P 500 2,010.40 -0.96 -0.05%
Treasuries 2.59 -0.04 -1.60%
Data as of 6:20pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Yahoo! Inc 40.93 -1.16 -2.74%
Microsoft Corp 47.52 0.84 1.80%
Bank of America Corp... 16.95 -0.09 -0.53%
Oracle Corp 39.80 -1.75 -4.21%
Facebook Inc 77.91 0.91 1.18%
Data as of 4:04pm ET

Sections

Law enforcement officials say Frank Tamayo was the middleman in a $5.6 million insider trading scheme that involved him eating pieces of paper to cover up the crime. More

Scotland's clear rejection of independence has eased fears that it could suffer the kind of decline seen in Quebec after it failed to break away from Canada. More

It's really good to be Larry Ellison. The Oracle founder is stepping down as CEO, so maybe he'll have more time to enjoy his glamorous life. More

As Occupy Wall Street goes on its debt-abolishing tear, thousands of people across the country are begging them to forgive their loans. More

Market indexes are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer The Dow Jones IndexesSM are proprietary to and distributed by Dow Jones & Company, Inc. and have been licensed for use. All content of the Dow Jones IndexesSM © 2014 is proprietary to Dow Jones & Company, Inc. Chicago Mercantile Association. The market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved. Most stock quote data provided by BATS.