The IBD/TIPP Economic Optimism Index eased 1.1 points to 55.6 in March, taking a step back after hitting a 13-year high in February.
The polling from Feb. 22 to March 1, reflecting 901 responses, came after a month that saw most Americans' paychecks get a boost from lower tax withholdings and the first real bout of stock-market weakness in two years. While political support for the tax cuts has strengthened, polling shows that only about 1 in 4 registered voters noticed an increase in their paychecks. Some of the tax-cut dividends will come via a bigger child tax credit that is paid at tax time.
Positive news continued to roll in from the response to corporate tax cuts, with CVS Health (CVS) hiking its minimum wage to $11 an hour, following earlier pay-hike announcements from Walmart (WMT), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Starbucks (SBUX) and dozens of other companies since the tax cuts were passed.
President Trump on March 1 announced plans to impose a 25% steel tariff and a 10% aluminum tariff on all imports. That spooked markets, at least temporarily, and economists warn that could hurt jobs and GDP growth over time. But the news on the last day of IBD/TIPP polling likely had no impact on March's Economic Optimism Index.
All income groups exhibited optimism, though optimism decreases with income. falling from 58.7 for those earning above $75,000 to 50.2 for sub-$30,000 earners.
The Economic Optimism Index is a composite of three major subindexes that track views of near-term economic prospects, the outlook for personal finances over the coming six months, and views of how well government economic policies are working.
The gauge of the six-month economic outlook fell 4.6 points to 52.9, a month after hitting its highest level since October 2012.
The six-month personal financial outlook index held at 63.8, still close to January's 14-year high of 64.0.
Meanwhile, the measure of confidence in federal economic policies rose 1.3 points to 50.0. That neutral reading reflected the second-most favorable view of government since 2007, with the gauge briefly popping into positive territory during the honeymoon after Donald Trump's election.
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