Consumer confidence rose again in March, led by healthy attitudes toward the economy and personal finances, according to the Discover U.S. Spending Monitor, a daily poll tracking economic confidence and spending intentions of nearly 8,200 consumers.

A quarter of respondents in March said their personal finances were improving, and 35% said that the overall economy is improving – the highest figure since April 2010. At the same time, 50% responded that the economy was poor, which is the lowest figure since April 2010.

The Monitor climbed 1.6 points to 96.5, and is at its highest level since October 2007. It has jumped 19.5 points during the past six months.

More consumers reported plans to increase spending over the next 30 days in all categories surveyed by the Monitor. Spending intentions typically rise during this time of year as consumers anticipate higher gas prices and seasonal spending, such as home improvement purchases.

Looking forward, 34% plan, in general, to spend more in the upcoming month, up 6 percentage points from February.
   
• Of those surveyed, 52% plan to spend more on household expenses, including gasoline and groceries. This is a jump of 8 percentage points from the month before, and the highest figure since May 2011. This comes amid rising gas prices.
   
• Seventeen percent plan to spend more on home improvement next month, the highest figure since May 2011.
 
• Also, 15% of consumers said they planned to spend more in the upcoming month on major personal purchases, which is the highest figure since June 2011.

At the same time, 40% said they expected a greater expense or shortfall in income in the next 30 days, which is a leap of 7 percentage points from the month before and may indicate added expenses as a result of higher gas prices. The number of people who said they had more money left over in March, compared to the month before, fell to 12%, a drop of 2 percentage points.

Improving views about the economy has correlated with more consumers feeling better about their personal finances.
 
• Overall, 36% said their personal finances were either good or excellent, which is the same figure as February.

• A quarter of respondents said their personal finances are improving, a slight increase of 1 percentage point from the month before.

For the first time in three years, a majority, 51%, of consumers reported having money left over after paying bills. This figure is a slight increase from February and the highest figure since March 2009.

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