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US consumer confidence flat, better than abroad

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Elaine Thompson/AP

(Read caption) A customer looks over large screen televisions at a Costco store March 24 in Shoreline, Wash. Consumer in confidence was essentially flat this month, the Conference Board reported.

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American consumers' outlook is just about where the US economy appears to be: flat.

US consumer confidence this month hit 26.0, barely above the record low of 25.3 in February, the Conference Board reported Tuesday morning.

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But from a global perspective, that's pretty good because consumers' mood is souring elsewhere.

Mood grimmer overseas

In the European Union, business and consumer confidence dropped to their lowest level in 24 years, the European Commission reported Monday.

The outlook of China's urban consumers also fell in February, DDMA Market Research and Consulting reported earlier this month. The firm said 45 percent of consumers in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Shenyang said that they had already cut back on spending, an increase of 7 percentage points from January. Some 26 percent were concerned about losing their jobs.

Better signs in Japan

In Japan, the situation more closely mirrors the US. Both nations are seeing tentative signs of a bottoming out.

Japan's industrial output fell in February for the fifth month in a row. Nevertheless, confidence improved ifor the second month in a row, Japan’s Cabinet Office reported earlier this month. After hitting a low of 45.9 in December, it now stands at 48.4. However, any reading below 50 still suggests a negative outlook.

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