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US consumer confidence unexpectedly weakens in March

Consumer confidence in the U.S. unexpectedly weakened in March amid a deterioration in sentiments on current business and labor market conditions and short-term labor prospects, data from the Conference Board showed.

The consumer confidence index declined to 124.1 in March from 131.4 in the previous month and fell short of the Econoday consensus estimate of 133.0.

The present-situation index dropped to 160.6 in March from 172.8 in the prior month, reflecting a less upbeat assessment of the labor market. Consumers who noted a deterioration in business conditions rose to 13.6% in March from February's 11.1%, while the portion of those concluding that business conditions are good fell to 33.4% from 40.6% in February.

The expectations index for the month also fell, to 99.8 from 103.8 in February, indicating a less favorable consumer outlook for the near future. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to worsen over the next six months remained nearly unchanged at 9.3% in March against the prior month's 9.2%, while that projecting an improvement fell to 17.7% from 19.6% in February.

The percentage of consumers projecting jobs to decrease in the coming months rose to 13.4% from 12.3% in February, while the portion anticipating an increase fell to 16.4% from 19.0%, indicating a less conducive outlook for the labor market.

Consumers demonstrated slightly more confidence about short-term income prospects in March, with the proportion anticipating an increase in income edging up to 21.0% from 20.6% in February, while those projecting a decline fell to 7.6% from 8.3%.

"Confidence has been somewhat volatile over the past few months, as consumers have had to weather volatility in the financial markets, a partial government shutdown and a very weak February jobs report," said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. "Despite these dynamics, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue expanding in the near term."