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Metro area consumer confidence slips on trade worries, stock market volatility

Consumer confidence in the metro area declined in

Consumer confidence in the metro area declined in March, a Siena College poll found. Credit: AP/Julio Cortez

Consumer confidence in the metropolitan area dipped last month after hitting a 10-year high in late 2017, according to a survey released Wednesday.

The Siena College Research Institute reported its Index of Consumer Sentiment was 89.3 points in March for Long Island, New York City and its northern suburbs.

The index was last at this level in December 2015. In November 2017, it was 93.5.

Index readings above 76 points indicate that the number of residents who are optimistic about their immediate financial futures is larger than the number who are pessimistic.

Siena pollster Doug Lonnstrom blamed the decline in consumer confidence on a recent trade dispute between the United States and China over imports, and on the volatile ups and downs of Wall Street.

“The drop in consumer sentiment was due to a weakening in New Yorkers’ confidence in our economic future,” he said Wednesday. “New Yorkers are far less secure today and optimistic about our state economy than Americans in general are towards their personal situation and the country’s future."

Still, Lonnstrom said consumers appear willing to make big-ticket purchases for automobiles, homes and furniture as concerns about the cost of gasoline and food abate.

In the metro area, 25 percent of the residents surveyed said pump prices were either a very or somewhat serious problem in March, down from 32 percent in November.

Fifty-seven percent said the cost of groceries was either a very or somewhat serious problem, down from 60 percent late last year.

Retailers and economists closely follow confidence indexes because consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of economic activity.

Siena, based in upstate Loudonville, near Albany, polled 802 adults in New York State between March 1 and 29. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

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