Consumer Confidence Index retreats

A measure of consumer confidence has retreated from a nearly 18-year high on less upbeat assessments of business conditions but continues to signal growth.

The Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 127.7 in March. That’s down 2.3 points from 130 in February, the highest reading since the index stood at 132.6 in November 2000.

“Consumers’ assessment of current conditions declined slightly, with business conditions the primary reason for the moderation. Consumers’ short-term expectations also declined, including their outlook for the stock market,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board. “Despite the modest retreat in confidence, index levels remain historically high and suggest further strong growth in the months ahead.”

The business research and membership association bases the index on the results of monthly household surveys. Economists monitor the results because consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.

For March, the present situation component of the index fell 1.3 points to 159.9.

The proportion of consumers responding to the survey upon which the index was based who described business conditions as “good” rose 1.4 points to 37.9 percent. But the share of those who characterized conditions as “bad” rose more —  2.1 points to 13.4 percent.

The proportion of consumers who said jobs were “plentiful” rose eight-tenths of a point to 39.9 percent. The share of those who called jobs “hard to get” slipped two-tenths of a point to 14.9 percent.

The expectations portion of the index fell three points to 106.2.

The share of consumers who said they expect business conditions to improve over the next six months fell two points to 23 percent. The share of those anticipating worsening conditions rose four-tenths of a point to 9.8 percent.

The share of consumers who said they expect more jobs to become available in coming months fell 3.3 points to 19.1 percent. The proportion of those anticipating fewer jobs edged up two-tenths of a point to 12.6 percent.

Meanwhile, 22 percent of consumers said they expect their incomes to increase, down 1.5 points. Another 7.2 percent of consumers said they anticipating earning less, down 1.4 points.