U.S. consumer confidence inches up in March

NEW YORK, March 28 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. consumer confidence index increased slightly in March to 104.2, higher than 103.4 in the prior month and the consensus of 101.0, according to data issued by think tank The Conference Board on Tuesday.

Rebound of the indicator based on online surveys of consumers reversed the downward trend in the previous two months.

An uptick in expectations drives the increase of consumer confidence in March, but the index remains below the average level of 104.5 in 2022, said Ataman Ozyildirim, senior director of economics at The Conference Board.

The latest data shows an improved outlook for consumers under 55 years old and households earning 50,000 U.S. dollars and over, noted Ozyildirim.

The latest results also reveal that consumers' expectations of inflation over the next 12 months remain elevated at 6.3 percent, added Ozyildirim.

"While consumers feel a bit more confident about what's ahead, they are slightly less optimistic about the current landscape," said Ozyildirim.

In particular, the present situation index decreased to 151.1 from 153.0 last month while the expectations index went up to 73.0 from 70.4 in February.

However, since February 2022, the expectations index has been below 80 for 12 of the last 13 months as the level of 80 or less often signals a recession within the next year, according to a release by The Conference Board.

In addition, consumers plan to spend less on highly discretionary categories such as playing the lottery, visiting amusement parks, going to the movies, personal lodging, and dining in the next six months.

Still, consumers plan to spend more on less discretionary categories such as health care, home or auto maintenance and repair, and economical entertainment options such as streaming. Spending on personal care, pet care, and financial services such as tax preparation will also likely be maintained, said the release.

The cutoff date for the survey was March 20, about ten days after the bank failures in the United States.

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