U.S. Consumer Confidence Roughly Flat in March

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US consumer confidence is roughly flat in MarchAmericans' rosy outlook about the U.S. economy remains resilient as they focus on the good in the barrage of conflicting economic news.

A widely watched barometer of consumer confidence barely budged in March after hitting its highest level since before the financial crisis began in the previous month. Americans continued to be upbeat in March despite mixed economic signs. The stock market is up, but gas prices are, too. Unemployment is falling, but home prices also are declining.

Lynn Franco, director of private research group The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement that consumers "feel the economy is not losing momentum."

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index fell slightly to 70.2. That's down from a revised 71.6 in February - the highest level it's been since the same month in 2011.

Consumer confidence has made a recovery since it fell to an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009. But the March reading is below the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy. The index hasn't been near 90 since December 2007.

Economists watch consumer confidence closely because Americans' spending on things from clothing to health care accounts for about 70 percent of the nation's economic activity.

One gauge of the Consumer Confidence Index, which measures how shoppers feel now about the economy, rose to 51.0, from 46.4 in the previous month. That measure now stands at the highest level in more than three years. But the other barometer, which assesses shoppers' six-month outlook, declined to 83.0 from 88.4 in February.

"The moderate decline was due solely to a less favorable short-term outlook, while consumers' assessment of current conditions, on the other hand, continued to improve," Franco said.

The preliminary survey of consumers, conducted from March 1 through March 15, showed shoppers' worries about inflation rose to the highest level in a year. as gas prices rose. In fact, the nationwide average for a gallon of gas reached $3.90 on Monday, which is now less than 10 cents away from last year's high.

The price typically climbs in the weeks ahead of Memorial Day weekend - the traditional kickoff of the summer driving season. The national average peaked last year in early May at an average of $3.98 per gallon. The record high of $4.11 was set in July 2008.

But steady improvement in other areas of the economy is offsetting worries about gas prices. The economy expanded at an annual rate of 3 percent in the final three months of last year. That was better than the 1.8 percent rate in the previous quarter. Most economists expect growth to slow in the current quarter to below 2.5 percent, despite more hiring.

Companies also are adding workers as the economy picks up. The economy has added an average of 245,000 jobs per month from December through February. The unemployment rate has declined to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years.

Still, a job market recovery has a long way to go. According to Conference Board survey, shoppers' assessment of jobs was mixed.

Those saying jobs "are plentiful" increased to 9.4 percent from 7.0 percent, while those stating jobs are "hard to get" also rose, to 41.0 percent from 38.6 percent. Additionally, consumers' six-month outlook for the labor market was less upbeat: Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead declined to 17.3 percent from 18.8 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs increased to 18.3 percent from 16.4 percent.

Adding to that, a continued drop in home prices suggests the housing market remains weak, even after the best winter for home sales in five years and steady improvement in the job market.

A widely watched home price index showed that home prices fell in January for a fifth straight month in most major U.S. cities, as modest sales increases have yet to boost prices. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home-price index released Tuesday showed that prices dropped in January from December in 16 of 19 cities tracked.

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AP Real Estate Writer Derek Kravitz contributed to this report in Washington.

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gmydogbud

Thanks to those in Congress over the past 40 years or so, there are NO Jobs that pay a living wage for the American Middle Class. They have taken money from Big Business, Big Banks, Unions, Lobbyists and on and on, to look the other way while American Jobs went overseas. They have taken delight in destroying the American Middle Class, while taking very good care of themselves. They (Both Parties) do not know the meaning of the words character and honesty, they are nothing more than - CIPHERS!! The American Middle Class has been made to suffer, because of what those who think themselves to be their betters, have done! When you do not have money, you have NO Confidence and are unable to spend!!!

March 28 2012 at 1:15 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
teds623

no one should be surprised by this. GAS!! In order to afford to drive to any retailer, you need gas. we are a middle class family and closed our wallets to anything but utilities, food, housing, and medical emergencies. That pretty much says it all. Good luck to everyone!

March 28 2012 at 11:43 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to teds623's comment
bggdg

There's this new fangled thing called Amazon you might want to learn more about!

March 29 2012 at 9:42 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Margie

I am going to discontinue reading these captions if they don't start to get more realistic. All this mumbo-jumbo about the rise in confidence and the improvement in the economy is a "false front". This economy has been terrible for the last four years and I have seen NO IMPROVEMENT! If you are talking about the creation of a few low paying, non-life sustainable jobs as an improvement, you are not very aware of what is going on! THIS IS ANOTHER GREAT DEPRESSION and this time we don't have the ability to "turn things around". With those greedy corporations and the rise of HIGH TECHNOLOGY, much of the population is left to fend for themselves. They have been PERMANENTLY OUSTSOURCED.

March 28 2012 at 11:00 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
thisisdavid88

HOW CAN ANYONE ,HAVE ANY CONFIDENCE THE WAY THIS TERRIBLE ECONOMY IS HEADED....IF IT WASN'T FOR ALL THOSE TORNADO'S,HURRICANES AN A VERY MILD WINTER,THE THE TRUE EMPLOYMENT RATE WOULD NOW BE ATLEAST 40% LOOKIN FOR JOBS..........

March 28 2012 at 8:06 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Mingo

Hard to pay the rent and go help the economy. HEY WASHINGTONput real americans on real jobs and the rest will take care of its self.

March 27 2012 at 10:39 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
democracks0

SOMEY, MILY AND EVAN WHAT A TRIO. ALL OBAMITES TO THE CORE AND CLING TO HOAX AND CHANGE AND STILL CHANT "YES WE CAN". LMMFAO!!!!!

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IS IN THE TOILET.

March 27 2012 at 9:16 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to democracks0's comment
Setanta

maybe they'RE all the same person ? you see,these dipsticks WANT YOU TO THINK and believe they are out here IN NUMBERS when ALL THEY ARE are a bunch of persistent yappers that definitely ARE the MINORITY.

March 27 2012 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
teds623

you bet...but OBAMA has been strides to better it. It takes a LONG to turn around EIGHT YEARS of a man doing everything he could to destroy amerca as we knew it!

March 28 2012 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to teds623's comment
democracks0

ANOTHER OBAMITE. LMAO. OBAMA'S BEEN BETTER? HE'S DESTROYED AMERICA IN LESS THAN 3 1/2 YEARS

March 28 2012 at 2:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
bggdg

George Bush was a big government stooge. By vastly expanding the size and scope of government, Bush' policies made citizens smaller, precisely the opposite of "America as we knew it" (once upon a time).

Obama is Bush on steroids. His immensely more destructive bigger government policies make Bush a relative lightweight when it comes to "destroying America as we knew it"

March 29 2012 at 9:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
Richard

Coming very soon folks our electric rates are going to rise per the new EPA regulations on Co2.
?How many recall this below video:
Obama: My Plan Makes Electricity Rates Skyrocket - YouTube
Co 2 emissions control was placed under EPA regulation by President Barack Obama because he knew the Congress would not pass that issue and to spur further his Green Energy Agenda. The result, would be all coal fired plants that produce energy would have the cost of doing business so high they would go bankrupt and out of business,or consumers would pay costs...Result anyway you look at, all consumers would see their electric soar.
It now has been estimated the average consumer is about to be hit with roughly a 19% increase in all their electric rates according to some independent agencies that cannot recall at this time.
Do we really need this assault so fast vs. a more gradual approach?
Think about the current gasoline costs, consumer products, and groceries, higher taxation, more regulations. Think about a very lack luster economy that are months if not years away from anything near what we were some time ago. Think about our crippling national debt now approaching 16 Trillion dollars at a cost many in the billions per week just in interest alone. Think about a possible confrontation with Iran and further oil supply (although small) declined. Think about a monster of regulations that will be mandated, if The Supreme Court decides Government National Health care Constitutional that will force all Americans to buy health insurance.
Think about the further expansion of an entitlement nation. Think about the largest number of people on food stamps. Think about all the taxpayer money wasted on now over 10-20? Green Companies Solyandra the Poster child. Think about all the Phony Capitalism corruption and deals.
Think about all the blames put forth...and seriously ask yourselves, do we really need all this all rammed down our throats at this time?

March 27 2012 at 7:18 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
swampangel51

Im confident we have a moron leading us all into debt!

March 27 2012 at 6:42 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
majbjb

Consumer confidence, there's any of that out there???

March 27 2012 at 5:52 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
rcvv4

what recovery????? and what confidence???

March 27 2012 at 3:47 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply