(Washington) The clouds gathering over the American economy are starting to worry consumers again, with the index measuring their confidence falling in March, to still historically low levels, according to the estimate published on Friday. by the University of Michigan.

The index fell sharply in March, to 63.4 points against 67 points in February, a decline of 5.4% over one month, while analysts rather anticipated a slight improvement in confidence, which they expected to 67.2 points, according to the consensus published by briefing.com.

“The drop predates the bankruptcy of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), by which time 85% of the survey was already completed,” Joanna Hsu, director of the survey, said in the statement. “The decline is concentrated among consumers with lower incomes and lower educational levels as well as among young people, but also in the upper third of those holding stocks.”

The decline concerns both current conditions and expectations. In the latter case, the index stands at 61.7 points, down 4.9% over one year.

“The pullback is driven in particular by persistent inflation, which is fueling the downward momentum in consumer sentiment,” Ms. Hsu added.

Despite everything, the latter are now counting on lower inflation this year than what they envisaged in February, at 3.8% against 4.1%, the lowest level observed since April 2021. But it is still good higher than pre-pandemic expectations, which ranged between 2.3% and 3%.

Although declining, inflation remained very high in February, at 6% according to the benchmark CPI index.

The Federal Reserve (Fed), however, favors another measure of inflation, the PCE index, which it wants to bring back to around 2%, but which rose again in January, to 5.4% over one year.

The Fed is due to announce on Wednesday whether it is continuing to raise its rates, today between 4.50% and 4.75%, or whether it prefers to pause to give the banking sector time to absorb the shock caused by the bankruptcy of SVB and two other regional banks, Signature Bank and Silvergate, and to ensure the rescue of a fourth, First Republic.