Consumer confidence shows a slide

Consumer confidence in the economy dipped last month.

The GfK NOP consumer confidence index fell to -15 for March, down from the -14 registered in February.

The survey covered some 2,000 people and revealed that overall optimism about the future of the economy also dropped last month to zero from +4 in February.

There was greater caution over personal finances too. The index measuring people's attitudes towards their own financial outlooks over the next 12 months fell 2 points to 4 but was still 10 points stronger than at the same stage last year.

Despite the fact that consumer confidence is now a lot higher than it was a year ago - when the index slumped to -30 - experts had been expecting a small improvement for March.

Nick Moon, managing director of GfK NOP social research, said: "The fall is small but still significant given we saw confidence improve for the first two months of the year.

"Particularly disturbing is the lack of confidence in the country's economic performance over the next 12 months. While consumer outlook is more positive than the same time last year, this fall in confidence around Budget time does not bode well."