Consumer confidence falls as spending cuts surge

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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.