US stocks wobbled Tuesday on a private research report that consumer confidence dipped in March amid a spike in gas prices.
The Dow Jones industrial average was reversing course several times in morning trading. The Standard & Poor's 500 index and the Nasdaq composite index were rising in morning trading.
Consumers' confidence in the U.S. economy dropped in March amid higher gas prices, says a private research group. The decline comes after confidence rose to the highest level in a year during the previous month.
The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 70.2, down from a upwardly revised 71.6 in February. Economists surveyed by FactSet expected a reading of 70.
Consumer confidence has recovered since it fell to a record 25.3 in February 2009. Still, the March number is below 90, a level which suggests a healthy economy. The index hasn't been near 90 since December 2007.
Economists watch consumer confidence closely because Americans' spending on things from clothing to health care accounts for about 70% of the nation's economic activity.
The price for a gallon (3.7 liters) of gas has risen 17 cents this month alone, well ahead of the traditional start of the driving season. That begins over the Memorial Day weekend.
Prices are also just 10 cents away from surpassing last year's peak, and energy experts believe they will keep going up.
High gasoline prices are taking their toll on consumers, which could threaten the young economic recovery. Consumers account for about 70% of the U.S. economic activity and their habits are watched closely.
On Monday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke signaled that the U.S. would continue with an accommodative economic policy, with the employment picture still shaky.