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US consumer confidence misses expectations in February

Consumer confidence in the U.S. missed market expectations in February, registering only a slight uptick as households' assessment of economic conditions moderated amid the coronavirus crisis.

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index rose to 130.7 from January's 130.4. The index reading for January was revised down from 131.6.

The latest headline index came in below the consensus estimate of economists polled by Econoday for February, which was an index reading of 132.5.

In reporting its latest survey results, the Conference Board did not mention any impact of the coronavirus outbreak. But it could not be ignored that the virus spread is weighing on consumer sentiment, according to economists at Wells Fargo Securities. "That said, the COVID-19 impact mercifully has not yet been too pronounced," they said in a note.

The Present Situation Index, which gauges consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions, fell month over month to 165.1 from 173.9. According to the Conference Board, the percentages of households describing business conditions as "good" and seeing "plentiful" jobs in the market decreased.

Consumers' short-term outlook improved, with the Expectations Index rising to 107.8 from 101.4. The percentages of households anticipating better income prospects and business conditions in the months ahead increased, while the proportion of those expecting more jobs declined.

The improvement in consumers' short-term expectations, along with strong employment growth, "should be enough to continue to support spending and economic growth in the near term," according to Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.