US consumer confidence sinks as virus begins having impact

Business

The dining section is closed off at East Side Pockets, a small restaurant near Brown University, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Providence, R.I. President Donald Trump wants the country open for business by mid-April, but some experts warn it’s not as easy as flipping a switch: Economies run on confidence, and that is likely to be in short supply for as long as coronavirus cases in the United States are still rising. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumer confidence tumbled this month to its lowest level in nearly three years as the impact of the coronavirus on the economy began to be felt.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its confidence index dropped to a reading of 120 in March from February’s 132.6. It was the lowest reading since the index was at 117.3 in June 2017.

The steep decline in March reflected rising worries about the coronavirus during the survey period of March 1-18. Economists say confidence is sure to fall further as the virus’ impact takes a bigger toll on the economy.

Analysts said the sharp drop in the confidence index reflects rising concerns about the damage the virus will cause and about the sharp declines in stock markets.

“The intensification of Covid-19 and extreme volatility in the financial markets have increased uncertainty about the outlook for the economy and jobs,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economist indicators at the Conference Board.

“March’s decline in confidence is more in line with a severe contraction — rather than a temporary shock — and further declines are sure to follow,” Franco said.

Both a sub-index the covers consumers’ view of current business and job market conditions and another sub-index that covers expectations of future conditions fell in March.

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