Twenty-three percent of 1,200 Americans polled in March by Gallup's Consumer Mood Index said they believed economic conditions were improving, up from 16% who said so in a similar survey in February and more than double the 10% who did in March 2008. However, in sharp contrast, 59% rated current economic conditions as "poor," on par with the 61% who did so in February and much worse than the 39% who did in March 2008. Still, the overall index, buoyed by an uptick in those who believe the economy is improving, rose to minus 98 in March, nearly at the minus-94 reading reported a year earlier. "This recession is different from those of the past, and the March improvement in consumer mood is built more on hope than on an assessment of the current economic reality," Gallup says in its commentary on the poll results. "It remains possible that increasing unemployment rates and the need for consumers and businesses to rebuild their balance sheets will end up [prolonging the economic downturn]. That is the danger consumers and management need to consider on a contingency planning basis." The index is based on answers to two questions–one about current conditions and the other about the direction of the economy. It has a maximum possible value of 200 and a minimum possible value of minus 200.

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