Consumer confidence in February down

New York -- The Conference Board reported its Consumer Confidence Index plunged from a January reading of 56.5 to a mark of 46.0 this month (1985 = 100).

Conference Board Consumer Research Center director Lynn Franco ticked off the key components: “Concerns about current business conditions and the job market pushed the Present Situation Index down to its lowest level in 27 years (Feb. 1983, 17.5). Consumers’ short-term outlook also took a turn for the worse, with fewer consumers anticipating an improvement in business conditions and the job market over the next six months. Consumers also remain extremely pessimistic about their income prospects. This combination of earnings and job anxieties is likely to continue to curb spending.”

The Present Situation Index decreased to 19.4 from last month’s 25.2. The Expectations Index declined to 63.8 in February from 77.3 in January.

“Consumers’ assessment of current-day conditions soured in February,” the Board stated. “Those claiming conditions are ‘good’ decreased to 6.2% from 8.5%, while those claiming business conditions are ‘bad’ increased to 46.3% from 44.7%.”

Labor market concerns also deepened. “Those saying jobs are ‘hard to get’ rose to 47.7% from 46.5%, while those saying jobs are ‘plentiful’ decreased to 3.6% from 4.4%.”

The short-term outlook of American households saw marked darkening, with the percentage of consumers anticipating better business conditions over the next six months falling 16.7% this month from 20.7% in January; those predicting a worsening increased to 15.3% from 12.7%.

Checking their pocketbooks, the proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 9.5% from 11.0%, the Conference Board concluded.

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