Consumer confidence inched up in March after two straight monthly declines, even as persistent inflation, bank collapses and anxiety over a possible recession weighed on Americans.
The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 104.2 in March from 103.4 in February.
The business research group’s present situation index — which measures consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions — inched down to 151.1 from 153 last month.
The board’s expectations index — a measure of consumers’ six-month outlook for income, business and labor conditions — rose in March to 73 from 70.4 in February. A reading under 80 often signals a recession in the coming year, the Conference Board said.
Consumer spending, which makes up about 70% of U.S. economic activity, has remained strong despite the Federal Reserve raising interest rates nine straight times since March of last year in its effort to cool the economy and bring down persistent, four-decade high inflation. Those rate increases can raise the cost of using credit cards or taking out a loan for a house, car or other purchases.
On top of that, though U.S. consumer price increases eased slightly from January to February, they still point to an elevated inflation rate far above the Fed’s 2% target.