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Consumer confidence dips slightly in February

Consumer confidence retreated in February as fewer Americans expressed optimism about near-term economic conditions, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.

The consumer confidence index fell to 78.1, down from 79.4 in January. The drop was primarily in its expectations index -- which measures consumers' expectations of economic activity in the next six months. 

The survey found that consumers had "concern over the short-term outlook for business conditions, jobs and earnings,” said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators.

Another index, however, showed consumers were more confident in present economic conditions. 

“While expectations have fluctuated over recent months, current conditions have continued to trend upward," Franco said. "This suggests that consumers believe the economy has improved, but they do not foresee it gaining considerable momentum in the months ahead.”

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The survey also found that consumers saw slight improvement in the labor markets in February. Nearly 14% of consumers think jobs are "plentiful," up slightly from 12.5% the month before.  

Consumer spending has been flat in recent months, partly because of harsh winter weather in parts of the country.

Though confidence faltered in February, it should bounce back in March, said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. "We expect so, but if we're wrong, the signal for spring consumption will be discouraging," he said. 

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