Consumer Confidence Slides

U.S. consumer confidence fell in March after hitting a three-year high in the prior month 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 a 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.

The expectations index slipped to 81.1 from 97.5, while consumers' expectations for inflation in the coming 12 months hit its 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.

Consumer confidence may have been impacted by Japan's devastating earthquake on March 11, which triggered a tsunami and nuclear crisis and roiled global financial markets.

Political uncertainty in the Middle East and North Africa, which has led to a rise in oil prices, has also weighed on consumer sentiment.