Confidence index hits high in time for spring homebuying

Present situation indicator at highest in almost six years

It may be a good time to get homebuyers off the fence as the Conference Board's consumer confidence index’s present situation component rose 4.4 points to 81.7.

This is the highest level it has been going back to April 2008.

Overall, the confidence index in February posted a 1.3 point dip to a lower-than-expected 78.1.

“Consumer confidence improved in March, as expectations for the short-term outlook bounced back from February’s decline,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board.

“While consumers were moderately more upbeat about future job prospects and the overall economy, they were less optimistic about income growth,” Franco said. “The Present Situation index, which had been on an upward trend for the past four months, was relatively unchanged in March. Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue improving and believe it may even pick up a little steam in the months ahead.”

Consumers’ assessment of current conditions was little changed in March.

Those claiming business conditions are “good” increased to 22.9% from 21.2%; however, those claiming business conditions are “bad” also rose, to 23.2% from 22%. Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was relatively unchanged. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased marginally to 13.1% from 13.4%, while those saying jobs are “hard to get” increased slightly to 33% from 32.4%.

The gain is a positive indication, heavy weather or not, for consumer activity in February.

Weakness in the report was centered in expectations, a more abstract assessment than the present situation where the index fell 5.1 points to 75.7.

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