Consumer confidence fell slightly in April, the second straight monthly decline, as a stuttering economic recovery kept purse strings tight, according to a survey released Tuesday.
The Conference Board, a private research group, said that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 69.2, down from a revised 69.5 in March. Economists were expecting a reading of 69.7, according to a Reuters poll. The current level is below a reading of 71.6 in February -- the highest level it has been in a year, the Associated Press reported.
The consumer-confidence gauge is closely watched because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Economists are paying particular attention to recent key economic gauges as rising layoffs and slowing home sales raise concerns about the real strength of the recovery. Consumers are also worried about high oil prices and the European debt crisis, which has weighed on U.S. markets.
A sluggish job market may have raised concern that growth isn't happening fast enough to lower the nation's unemployment rate, which remains stubbornly high. The report also showed consumers plan to cut back on purchases of cars, homes and vacations.
Overall, consumers are more upbeat about the state of the economy, but they remain cautiously optimistic, Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement.
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Meanwhile, the expectations index fell to 81.1 from 82.5, while the present situation index increased to 51.4 from 49.9 a month earlier.
Consumers' view of the labor market was mixed. The number of consumers who said jobs were plentiful fell to 8.4 percent from 9 percent, while those who said jobs are hard to get declined to 37.5 percent from 40.7 percent.
Those anticipating more jobs to become available in the next six months fell 16.9 percent from 17.4 percent the previous month, while the number expecting fewer jobs also fell to 18 percent from 18.5 percent. The number of people who expect their incomes to rise over the same period fell to 14 percent from 15.5 percent.
Consumers' mood was clearer about price increases, with expectations for inflation in the coming 12 months, falling to 5.8 percent from 6.2 percent.