Consumer confidence fell in March a month after hitting a three-year high as expectations about jobs and income growth worsened, according to a private sector report released on Tuesday.
The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes fell to 63.4 in March from an upwardly revised 72.0 in February.
The median of forecasts from analysts polled by Reuters was for a reading of 65.0. Forecasts ranged from 55.0 to 72.0.
Rising gasoline prices, and a range of other uncertainties are taking a toll on the consumer, said Peter Buchanan, senior economist at CIBC World Markets in Toronto.
The expectations index slipped to 81.1 from 97.5, while consumers' expectations for inflation in the coming 12 months hit the highest level since October 2008.
The present situation index rose to 36.9 from 33.8.
Consumers' labor market assessment worsened. The jobs hard to get index rose to 44.6 percent from 44.4 percent the month before, while the jobs plentiful index slipped to 4.4 percent from 4.9 percent.
The cutoff date for the consumer confidence survey was March 16.
Political uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa, which has led to a rise in oil prices, has weighed on consumers.
Confidence may have been impacted by Japan's devastating earthquake on March 11, which triggered a tsunami and nuclear crisis and roiled global markets.
Financial markets showed a muted reaction to the data, which followed a report last week showing U.S. consumer sentiment at its lowest level in more than a year as gasoline and food prices rose.
U.S. stock indexes <.DJI> <.SPX> were little changed. Treasury prices were mostly stable, while the dollar fell slightly against the euro.
Global uncertainty and rising inflation also took a toll on German consumer sentiment, which fell for the first time in 10 months going into April.
(Reporting by Wanfeng Zhou; Editing by Leslie Adler)