NEW YORK — The slow but steady march toward a possible war helped weigh down consumer confidence in the U.S. economy this month to its lowest reading in more than nine years.

The Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence, which is based on a representative sample of 5,000 U.S. households, fell 1.7 points this month, albeit to a better-than-expected 79.0 from a revised 80.7 in December, as consumers’ current and near-term outlooks headed in different directions.

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