The combination of high gas prices throughout March and weak equity markets in the first half of the month should bring a slight dip in consumer confidence. That's the judgment of Robert Dye, chief economist for Dallas-based Comerica Bank.
Dye says the Consumer Confidence Index, which reached 70.8% in February, will probably edge downward to the high sixties.
"But that doesn't indicate the consumer is souring. We've made tremendous progress in terms of job growth here the last few months. The overall trend in consumer confidence has been very strong since October of last year. So, even if we see a little bit of a giveback here from March, I think the consumer hangs in there."
Dye says consumer confidence is not the same thing as consumer spending. He says spending — notably on big-ticket items, such as cars — is still on the rise.