U.S. consumer confidence falls in March
After soaring in February to highs not seen in a year, consumer confidence in the U.S. economy fell back to earth in March amid higher gas prices, according to a private research group. The Conference Board says this morning that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 70.2, down from a revised 71.6 in February. That still beat economists' prediction: Those surveyed by FactSet had expected a reading of 70. Consumer confidence has made a recovery since it fell to an all-time low of 25.3 in February 2009. But the March reading is well below the 90 reading indicating a healthy economy. The index hasn't been near 90 since December 2007. Economists watch consumer confidence closely because Americans' spending on things from clothing to health care accounts for about 70% of the nation's economic activity. In trading this morning, stocks immediately opened higher, then slipped around 9 a.m. when the Conference Board released its consumer confidence report. Around the same time, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond released a report saying regional manufacturing has also plunged this month.
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