April 4, 2008 / 2:58 PM / in 10 years

Canadian consumer confidence dips in March: survey

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian consumer confidence fell in March, the Conference Board of Canada said on Friday, as concerns about future finances put consumers in a more pessimistic mood.

The board’s index of consumer confidence dipped 2 points in March to 94.5, more than erasing February’s modest 1.2 percent rise, according to the monthly survey based on 2,000 telephone interviews.

Despite the drop, the figure was in stark contrast to a comparable number in the United States, where Conference Board Inc reported its index fell nearly 12 points to 64.5.

The contrast between the two economies was also seen in employment reports for March on Friday.

Canada added 14,600 jobs, almost dead-on analysts’ expectations, while the U.S. economy shed 80,000 jobs, missing the market forecast for a decline of 60,000.

Around 40 percent of Canada’s economy is export-oriented, and the United States takes in over three-quarters of Canada’s exports.

The Statistics Canada jobs report showed that Canada’s manufacturing sector has lost 113,300 jobs since March 2007.

But Ontario, the country’s manufacturing heartland, was the only province where consumer confidence rose in March. Even with its one-point increase, however, confidence in Ontario remained below the national average

After a strong rebound last month, the index for the Atlantic provinces tumbled by 8.4 points. Quebec was down by 0.9 percent, the Prairie provinces by 4.8 points, and British Columbia by 6.7 points.

Looking at the country as a whole, 23 percent of those surveyed said their families were better off financially than they were six months earlier, down from 23.8 percent in February.

Those who felt their families’ financial positions had worsened rose to 15.1 percent from 14.7 percent the previous month.

In six months, 29.6 percent of respondents said their families would be better off, down from 34.3 percent in February. Those who said they would be worse off rose to 12.1 percent from 9 percent a month earlier.

The survey was conducted between March 6 and March 12.

Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Peter Galloway

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