NEW YORK -- Consumer confidence was stagnant in March amid lingering worries about the job market.
The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index slipped to 88.3 this month from a revised 88.5 in February. The February reading was down sharply from 97.7 in January.
The March reading -- the lowest level since October, when it reached 81.7 -- was slightly better than analysts had expected, in light of the terrorist bombings in Madrid.
Economists closely follow consumer confidence because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States.
In the survey, consumers claiming jobs are "hard to get" increased to 30 percent from 28.9 percent. But those saying jobs are "plentiful" rose slightly to 14.7 percent from 14.5 percent.
On Wall Street, stocks staged a late afternoon advance. The Dow Jones industrial average was up 52 points at 10,382. The Standard & Poor's 500 index climbed 5 points to 1,127, and the Nasdaq composite index rose 8 points to 2,001.
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