Consumer confidence took another hit in March, falling to a five-year low, as more Americans expect business conditions and the job market to worsen in the coming months, The Conference Board reported today.

The Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 64.5 this month from a reading of 76.4 in February, with the Expectations Index component plummeting to its lowest level since December 1973.

Consumer confidence took another hit in March, falling to a five-year low, as more Americans expect business conditions and the job market to worsen in the coming months, The Conference Board reported today.

The Consumer Confidence Index dropped to 64.5 this month from a reading of 76.4 in February, with the Expectations Index component plummeting to its lowest level since December 1973.

"Consumers’ confidence in the state of the economy continues to fade and the index remains at a five-year low (March 2003, 61.4). The decline in the Present Situation Index implies that the pace of growth in recent months has weakened even further," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement. "Looking ahead, consumers’ outlook for business conditions, the job market and their income prospects is quite pessimistic and suggests further weakening may be on the horizon. The Expectations Index, in fact, is now at a 35-year low (Dec. 1973, 45.2), levels not seen since the Oil Embargo and Watergate."

According to the survey, some 25.4 percent of consumers claim present-day business conditions are "bad," up from 21.3 percent in February, while those claiming business conditions are "good" declined to 15.4 percent this month from 19.1 percent in February.

Consumers’ appraisal of the job market was also more pessimistic than last month. Those saying jobs are "hard to get" rose to 25.1 percent in March from 23.4 percent in February, while those claiming jobs are "plentiful" decreased to 18.8 percent from 21.5 percent.

Some 25.4 percent of those surveyed this month expect business conditions to worsen over the next six months, up from 21.6 percent in February, while those anticipating business conditions to improve declined to 8.1 percent from 9.7 percent in February.

More consumers surveyed this month (29 percent) expect fewer jobs in the months ahead, up from 28 percent in February, while those anticipating more jobs sank to 7.7 percent from February’s 8.9 percent. Even fewer expect their incomes to increase (14.9 percent), compared with 18 percent in February.

The Consumer Confidence Survey is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households.

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