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Retailer shares fall on weak consumer confidence

the Associated Press

Shares of a number of major retailers fell Tuesday on the news that consumer confidence fell this month.

Americans are less confident in the economy now than they were last month, according to the Consumer Confidence Index, which is tracked by The Conference Board, a private research group.

The board said Tuesday that its closely watched index fell in March to 59.7 from a revised reading of 68 in February and the 68.7 that analysts polled by research firm FactSet expected. Confidence is still far off from the 90 reading that indicates a healthy economy.

It is the latest swing in the way Americans feel about the economy. Their views have fluctuated between optimism and angst over the months as they've weighed an advancing stock market and housing recovery against new economic challenges.

The index is closely watched by economists because it makes a monthly gauge of how Americans are feeling about their jobs, incomes and other bread-and-butter issues. That's important because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

A weaker index is seen by some investors as a bad sign for retailers, and stock prices fell for many major U.S. chains.

Here's a look at how some retailers were faring by midday Tuesday, while the broader market was trending upward:

— Gap Inc.'s shares fell more than 2 percent to $35.14.

— Macy's Inc.'s shares also fell 2 percent to $41.51.

— Abercrombie & Fitch Co.'s shares fell 1.5 percent to $45.68.

— Coach Inc.'s shares slipped just under 1 percent to $49.28.

— Limited Brands Inc.'s shares fell 1.5 percent to $4.06.

— Saks Inc.'s shares fell nearly 2 percent to $11.45.

— J.C. Penney Co.'s shares fell 1.5 percent to $14.96.