Consumer confidence in the U.S. unexpectedly deteriorated in the month of March, according to a report released by the Conference Board on Tuesday.
The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index dipped to 127.7 in March from a downwardly revised 130.0 in February.
The drop surprised economists, who had expected the index to inch up to 131.0 from the 130.8 originally reported for the previous month.
“Consumer confidence declined moderately in March after reaching an 18-year high in February,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at the Conference Board.
She added, “Despite the modest retreat in confidence, index levels remain historically high and suggest further strong growth in the months ahead.”
The report said consumers’ assessment of current conditions eased in March, with the present situation index slipping to 159.9 from 161.2 in February.
The percentage of consumers saying business conditions are “good” rose to 37.9 percent from 36.5 percent, but the percentage saying conditions are “bad” also climbed to 13.4 percent from 11.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the assessment of the labor market was marginally more favorable, as those claiming jobs are “plentiful” inched up to 39.9 percent from 39.1 percent and those claiming jobs are “hard to get” edged down to 14.9 percent from 15.1 percent.
“Consumers’ short-term expectations also declined, including their outlook for the stock market, but overall expectations remain quite favorable,” Franco said.
The expectations index fell to 106.2 in March from 109.2 in February, as the percentage of consumers anticipating business conditions will improve over the next six months dropped to 23.0 percent from 25.0 percent and the percentage expecting conditions to worsen ticked up to 9.8 percent from 9.4 percent.
Consumers’ outlook for the job market was also less positive, with those expecting more jobs in the months ahead sliding to 19.1 percent from 22.4 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs inched up to 12.6 percent from 12.4 percent.
On Thursday, the University of Michigan is scheduled to release its revised report on consumer sentiment in the month of March.
The consumer sentiment index for March is expected to be unrevised from the preliminary reading of 102.0, which was up from 99.7 in February.