Consumer confidence plummets in March
New York — Consumer confidence fell sharply in March, according to The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. The Index, which had improved in February, now stands at 59.7 down from 68.0 last month.
The Present Situation Index decreased to 57.9 from 61.4. The Expectations Index declined to 60.9 from 72.4 last month.
“Consumer Confidence fell sharply in March, following February’s up tic," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. "This month’s retreat was driven primarily by a sharp decline in expectations, although consumers were also more pessimistic in their assessment of current conditions. The loss of confidence, particularly expectations, mirrors the losses experienced this past December and January. The recent sequester has created uncertainty regarding the economic outlook and as a result, consumers are less confident.”
Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions declined in March. Those saying business conditions are “good” decreased to 16.0% from 17.6%, while those stating business conditions are “bad” increased to 29.3% from 28.2%. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was mixed. Those claiming jobs are “plentiful” decreased to 9.4% from 10.1%, but those claiming jobs are “hard to get” edged down to 36.2% from 36.9%.
Consumers are once again pessimistic about the short-term outlook. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 14.4 % from 18.0 %, while those anticipating business conditions to worsen increased to 18.3 % from 16.6 %.
Consumers’ outlook for the labor market was also less favorable. Those expecting more jobs in the months ahead declined to 12.3% from 16.1%, while those expecting fewer jobs increased to 26.6% from 22.1%. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase fell to 13.7% from 15.8%, while those expecting a decrease edged down to 18.0% from 19.3%.
Safeway, Solohealth sign agreement to install kiosks across store base
ATLANTA — Safeway has agreed to install SoloHealth Station kiosks across almost 700 stores as part of a multiyear agreement, SoloHealth announced earlier this week.
“Safeway shares our commitment of empowering consumers to take charge of their health,” stated Stephen Kendig, chief commercial officer and EVP SoloHealth. “We believe that access, awareness and education are keys to a healthy lifestyle, and we’re bringing comprehensive health and wellness services directly to Safeway’s customers.”
The SoloHealth Stations will be installed beginning in April. The stations are currently located in almost 2,500 retail locations nationwide, expanding to more than 4,000 by 2014.
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American Express, Wal-Mart expand Bluebird program
New York — American Express and Wal-Mart Stores announced Tuesday that they are expanding their reloadable prepaid card program, Bluebird, to include direct-deposit capabilities for government checks.
The Bluebird accounts will now be eligible for FDIC insurance, which will allow Bluebird customers to have their Social Security checks, military pay and other government benefit checks deposited directly into their accounts. The change eliminates delays for those who previously had to wait for their checks to clear. (Federal agencies are not allowed to wire money to accounts that aren’t protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.).
“Since launching Bluebird, we have been listening to our customers’ feedback and working hard to expand its features and services,” said Daniel Eckert, VP financial services for Walmart U.S. “Bluebird is helping customers streamline everyday money management without the frustration of navigating complicated dos and don’ts just to avoid fees. The enhancements we’re announcing today make Bluebird a great option for our active duty military personnel, government employees and other customers helping them take greater control of their everyday finances.”