Consumer confidence among Floridians rose slightly in March, but the University of Florida researcher behind the poll cautioned against putting too much stock in optimism.
"Florida consumers remain relatively pessimistic despite the three-point rise in confidence," said Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research. "Until there is a clear message that things are changing for the better, we expect consumer confidence to continue to move up and down as conflicting economic news trickles in."
Among the various components of UF's consumer confidence index:
• Perceptions of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years rose 12 points to 79, while perceptions of U.S. economic conditions over the next year rose 10 points to 59.
• Perceptions of personal finances now compared with a year ago rose one point to 42, while perceptions of personal finances a year from now remained unchanged at 79.
• Perceptions of whether it is a good time to buy big-ticket items fell eight points to 64.
The survey is benchmarked to 1966, so a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year.
McCarty said that consumer confidence has fluctuated within an eight-point range since July 2008.
"Much like the stock market, consumer confidence seems to lack a clear direction as positive economic news is typically countered by negative news," he said. "For example, housing sales and prices in some areas of Florida have increased, but unemployment is at levels not seen for 30 years. The stimulus package passed, but unpopular bonuses at AIG and debate in the Florida Legislature about accepting parts of the stimulus package counter that positive effect."