Consumers Skittish Over Financial Market, Gasoline Prices

Recent upheaval in financial market and increases in gasoline prices causing consumers to be apprehensive about short-term future, according to The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index.

Consumer apprehension over the recent turmoil in financial markets, along with rising gasoline prices, are responsible for a decline in March's Consumer Confidence Index, according to statistics released Tuesday by The Conference Board.

The current index is at 107.2, down from 111.2 in February.
"Apprehension about the short-term future has suddenly cast a cloud over consumers' confidence," says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. "Despite diminishing expectations, consumers' assessment of present-day conditions remains steady and does not suggest a weakening in economic conditions."

Franco suggests watching the direction of the financial markets and gasoline prices over the next few months to see if the decline is just a glitch or something more serious.
Labor market conditions are still mixed. Consumers who say that jobs are "hard to get" increased to 19.1 percent from 17.9 percent, yet those claiming jobs are "plentiful," increased to 30.5 percent from 27.8 percent in February.

The report notes that consumers' short-term outlook was more cautious in March. Those anticipating business conditions to worsen increased to 9.8 percent from 8.2 percent, while Those expecting business conditions to improve decreased to 14.5 percent from 15.9 percent.

Consumers are also more negative about the outlook for the labor market. Those expecting fewer jobs in the months ahead rose to 16.5 percent from 14.2 percent. Those expecting more jobs to become available dropped to 12.7 percent from 13.3 percent.

The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase in the months ahead fell to 17.5 percent from 19.2 percent in February, the survey reported.

The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.