The gauge from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters fell to 79.9 this month from a final February level of 81.6, data show.
Economists had expected a March reading of 80.8. Economists watch sentiment levels to get a feeling for the direction of consumer spending.
Opposing forces are working on consumers. The government’s most recent report on jobs showed nice employment growth . But rising gas prices and concern over action in Ukraine may be making consumers gloomier, economists said before the data’s release.
A gauge of consumers’ expectations for the economy fell to 69.4 this month from 72.7 in February. Meanwhile, a barometer of their views on current conditions increased to 96.1 from 95.4