NEW YORK -- A widely watched indicator of consumers' confidence in the economy slipped in February but remained well above its levels a year ago, a private research group reported yesterday.
The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 104.0 this month, down from a revised 105.1 in January, as optimism about business conditions over the next six months declined. The latest figure was slightly above what analysts were expecting.
Lynn Franco, the director of the Conference Board's research division, called the reading an indicator that consumers expect moderated but continued growth in the economy.
"We're not going to fall off a cliff and head into a recession, but we're not likely to gather substantial momentum either and see growth rates in excess of 5 percent," Franco said.
Gauges of consumer confidence are closely watched by economists since spending by individuals makes up about two-thirds of economic activity.
Despite the worsening in expectations about business conditions, consumers' views about labor conditions improved slightly. Those saying that jobs were hard to get fell to 22.6 percent from 24.3 percent, while those saying jobs were plentiful was unchanged at 20.9 percent.
On the whole, consumers' assessment of current economic conditions continued to generally improve. Those saying current business conditions were bad declined to 15.6 percent from 18.1 percent, while those saying conditions were good slipped to 24.9 percent from 26.1 percent.
The survey found a decline in consumers' confidence about the outlook for business conditions over the next six months, with those expecting conditions to improve falling to 17.8 percent from 22.0 percent. Those expecting conditions to worsen were the same at 7.8 percent.