Consumer confidence is weakening as manufacturing and exports, two engines of the recovery, are stalling, reports showed yesterday.
"The economy is not really gaining momentum, but not losing momentum," said Peter Cardillo, director of research at Westfalia Investments.
The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index declined 84 in early April from 85.9 in March, a sign that post-election euphoria has worn off, analysts said.
Industrial production was unchanged in March, stalled by a storm that paralyzed the Atlantic coast, the Federal Reserve System reported. Meanwhile, U.S. industry ran at 79.9 percent of capacity, down slightly from February.
The economy's future now rests squarely on the shoulders of consumers, many of whom are still wary of spending freely so long as the unemployment rate -- now at 7 percent -- stays high.
"The question now is what will keep the manufacturing sector moving," said Robert Dederick, chief economist at Northern Trust.