Yet Another Plunge in Consumer Confidence

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which decreased slightly in January, fell to an all-time low in February. The Index now stands at 25.0, down from 37.4 in January. The Present Situation Index and Expectations Index also deteriorated, dropping to 21.2 from 29.7 last month, and to 27.5 from 42.5, respectively. “The decline in the Present Situation Index, driven by worsening business conditions and a rapidly deteriorating job market, suggests that overall economic conditions have weakened even further this quarter,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Looking ahead, increasing concerns about business conditions, employment and earnings have further sapped confidence and driven expectations to their lowest level ever.” Franco said inflation expectations, which had been easing over the past several months, have also picked up. All in all, not only do consumers feel overall economic conditions have grown more dire, but the index shows they anticipate no improvement in conditions over the next six months. Consumers’ appraisal of overall current conditions, which was already bleak, worsened further. Those claiming business conditions are “bad” rose to 51.1 percent from 47.9 percent, while those saying business conditions are “good” edged up to 6.8 percent from 6.5 percent last month. Consumers’ assessment of the labor market turned considerably more pessimistic in February. Those saying jobs are “hard to get” increased to 47.8 percent from 41.1 percent in January, while those stating jobs are “plentiful” fell to 4.4 percent from 7.1 percent. Consumers’ short-term outlook turned more negative. Consumers anticipating business conditions will worsen over the next six months increased to 40.5 percent from 31.1 percent, while those expecting conditions to improve declined to 8.7 percent from 12.8 percent in January. The employment outlook was also much grimmer. The percentage of consumers expecting fewer jobs in the months ahead increased to 47.3 percent from 36.9 percent, while those expecting more jobs declined to 7.1 percent from 9.1 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting an increase in their incomes declined to 7.6 percent from 10.3 percent. Write to Kelly Curran at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade.

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