WASHINGTON — Consumer confidence experienced its biggest decline in more than a year, falling sharply in March because of growing concerns about rising prices and stagnant incomes, according to a survey released Tuesday.

WASHINGTON — Consumer confidence experienced its biggest decline in more than a year, falling sharply in March because of growing concerns about rising prices and stagnant incomes, according to a survey released Tuesday.

The nonprofit Conference Board said its consumer-confidence index dropped to 63.4 in March from a revised 72.0 in February, marking the biggest one-month decline since February 2010. The index had risen five straight months until backtracking in March.

Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected the index to decrease to 62.2 from February's initially reported level of 70.4.

The decline mirrors the results of several other surveys of consumer optimism, including Gallup and Reuters/University of Michigan.

The slow pace of hiring, meager wage increases and rising prices of gas and food are the biggest concerns of consumers. Americans grew more pessimistic about the jobs market in March and fewer people expect their incomes to rise.

Economists and pollsters say the disaster in Japan and political turmoil in the Mideast also likely contributed to a more pessimistic mood.

"While Wall Street has been largely able to ignore the chaos in the Middle East, the triple disaster in Japan, and state and federal budget battles, consumers have not been able to do likewise," Gallup chief economist Dennis Jacobe wrote in his blog. "High gas prices, surging food prices, and a continuing lack of jobs are challenges not so easily ignored by the average American consumer."

Lynn Franco, an economist with the Conference Board, said the retreat in consumer confidence "will likely impact spending decisions." Because consumers account for about two-thirds of U.S. growth, any significant drop in spending could weaken an already-fragile economy.

The biggest decline occurred in the board's "expectations" index, which gauges how consumers feel about the next 12 months. That index fell to 81.1 in March from 97.5 in February, making it the largest drop since the financial crisis in October 2008 and one of the five largest declines ever.