March Consumer Confidence Index Hits 16-Year High

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The Conference Board has released its latest monthly consumer confidence numbers. March’s Consumer Confidence Index reached 125.6 in March, up from 116.1 in February. The index is based on a figure of 100 established in 1985.

The Conference Board’s two other primary monthly indexes also rose. The Present Situation Index rose from 134.4 in February to 143.1, and the Expectations Index increased from 103.9 last month to 113.8. The present situation is defined as “current conditions,” while the expectations index covers a “short-term” outlook.

Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board, said:

Consumer confidence increased sharply in March to its highest level since December 2000 (Index, 128.6). Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions improved considerably. Consumers also expressed much greater optimism regarding the short-term outlook for business, jobs and personal income prospects. Thus, consumers feel current economic conditions have improved over the recent period, and their renewed optimism suggests the possibility of some upside to the prospects for economic growth in the coming months.

Several other factors of consumer confidence rose as well. The percentage of respondents who said business conditions are “good” rose from 28.3% to 32.2%, the Conference Board numbers showed. The research also indicated that the percentage of consumers stating jobs are “plentiful” rose from 26.9% to 31.7%.

In terms of forward-looking data, consumers expect business conditions will improve over the next six months, with that percentage rising from 23.9 in February to 27.1.

Consumers were also more optimistic about the jobs market. Those who expected “more jobs in the months ahead” rose from 20.9% last month to 24.8% for March.

The Conference Board, a division of Nielsen, issues numbers once a month. For March, the cutoff date was the 16th.