Consumer confidence dipped in March as people grew more pessimistic about economic expectations, according to The Conference Board.

The overall monthly index dropped to 70.2 from 70.8 in February. That reading shot up 9.3 points last month to the highest level in a year.

Survey respondents’ assessment of current conditions rose to 51 in March from 46.4, reaching the highest level since September 2008. But outlook for future growth fell to 83 from 88.4.

Despite the overall drop, the growth in present situation readings suggests consumers don’t feel the economy is losing momentum, said Lynn Franco, consumer research director at The Conference Board.

“The moderate decline (overall) was due solely to a less favorable short-term outlook, while consumers’ assessment of current conditions, on the other hand, continued to improve,” Franco said in a release.

The data and research firm benchmarks the overall index at 100 in 1985.

Capital Economics, a Toronto-based firm, expected an increase to 72 in the confidence index, but said rising gas prices took a toll on consumers.

“Overall, the dip in confidence is a good reminder that consumption growth will be solid, but not spectacular,” economist Amna Asaf wrote in an emailed statement.

More consumers sided one way or another in their appraisal of the current economic environment. Both “good” and “bad” responses for business conditions in March increased, up to 14.3% from 13.7% and 32.7% from 31.7%, respectively. More also said jobs are both “plentiful” and “hard to get,” up to 9.4% from 7% for plentiful and 41% from 38.6% for hard to get.

Respondents followed the same pattern for business conditions in next six months. Those expecting improvement grew to 19.2% from 18.9%, but people anticipating economic decline rose to 13.5% from 11.8%

Another measure of consumer sentiment, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index, also fell in a preliminary March reading. Final monthly survey results are scheduled for release Friday.


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