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Consumer confidence falls as spending cuts surge

WASHINGTON Americans are less confident in the economy than they were last month as massive government spending cuts stoke economic uncertainty.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private research group, said its reading of consumer confidence fell in March after rebounding last month.

The index is closely watched by economists because it makes a monthly gauge of how Americans are feeling about their jobs, incomes and other bread-and-butter issues. That's important because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

The March confidence index fell to 59.7 from a revised reading of 68 in February. That's also below the 68.7 reading that analysts polled by research firm FactSet expected.

The drop comes on a morning in which stock prices continue to surge. The group blamed the unexpected decline on anxiety about $85 billion in across-the-board government spending cuts that took effect March 1.