NEW YORK — The Conference Board has announced that its Consumer Confidence Index, which declined sharply in February, fell again in March. The Index now stands at 62.5, down from 64.8 in February. This is the lowest level since October 1993, when the United States was recovering from the early 1990s recession.

“While a quick and successful outcome in the Middle East conflict would certainly ease some of the uncertainties facing consumers and therefore boost confidence, it is the economic fundamentals that will determine whether a rebound is sustainable,” stated Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board’s Consumer Research Center.

“The end of the Gulf War in 1991 produced a surge in confidence, but labor market conditions quickly diminished the spark. So if history repeats itself, the current job scenario will do little to maintain any post-war surge in confidence.”

Consumers' appraisal of the current business environment mirrored last month’s readings. Those rating present business conditions as "bad" remained virtually unchanged at 29.8 percent. Those holding the opposite view accounted for 13.8 percent.

Consumers’ short-term expectations are more pessimistic than last month. Those anticipating that business conditions will worsen over the next six months moved up to 19.9 percent from 19.1 percent. Consumers anticipating an improvement fell to 13.3 percent from 14.9 percent.

Publication date: 03/24/2003