Consumer confidence continues its roller-coaster ride, according to a Conference Board report issued today.
The Board's Consumer Confidence Index dropped 12.2% in March after posting a 19% gain in February and a 12% loss in January. In absolute terms, the index's March number clocked in at 59.7, 8.3 points less than February and well below the index's 1985 100-point benchmark.
"This month's retreat was driven primarily by a sharp decline in expectations, although consumers were also more pessimistic in their assessment of current conditions," said Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco in a statement today. "The loss of confidence, particularly expectations, mirrors the losses experienced this past December and January. The recent sequester has created uncertainty regarding the economic outlook and as a result, consumers are less confident."
Drawn from a random sample, consumers' opinions of current conditions and the near future remain pessimistic. Consumers who believe business conditions to be "good" fell 1.6 percentage points to 16%, while those describing business as "bad" increased 1.1 percentage points to 29.3%. An increasing percentage of consumers also believe that business conditions will worsen over the next six months.
Current labor market conditions provide a glimmer of hope with consumers claiming jobs are "hard to get" down 0.7 percentage points to 36.2%, but future outlooks remain negative.