Consumer confidence hits 96.2 in March versus 94 expected

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Consumers were feeling more optimistic in March as stock market stability eased investing worries, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The Consumer Confidence Index hit 96.2 in March, according to The Conference Board. That's better than the 94 analysts expected, according to Thomson Reuters consensus estimates.

"Expectations regarding the short-term turned more favorable as last month's turmoil in the financial markets appears to have abated," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. "On balance, consumers do not foresee the economy gaining any significant momentum in the near-term, nor do they see it worsening."

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The survey, a closely-followed barometer of consumer attitudes, measures sentiment toward business conditions, short term outlook, personal finances and jobs.

The biggest share of consumers surveyed still believe current business conditions are good, according to the survey, although the gap tightened. In March, 24.9 percent said conditions were good, down from 26.5 percent, while 18.8 said conditions were bad, down from 19 percent.

Respondents were split on the labor market. More consumers said "jobs were hard to get" in March, but a larger share also said jobs were plentiful compared with February.

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But more consumers said business conditions are set to improve in the next six months: 15 percent expect improvement, up from 14.5 percent, while 9.2 percent expect conditions to worsen, down from 11.6 percent.

The February index was revised up to 94, the trade association said.