Buyer Confidence Ebbs as Worry, Fear and Uncertainty Loom

Consumer confidence plunged to the lowest level since August as rising gas prices made Americans more pessimistic about the economic outlook and their finances. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index dropped to minus 48.5 from minus 44.5 the prior week. Sentiment fell across most income and age groups, and worsened for all education levels.

The report “shows further evidence of the mounting concerns that the U.S. consumer has about the outlook, with oil prices the main factor crimping their optimism,” David Semmens, a U.S. economist at Standard Chartered Bank in New York, told Bloomberg. “Any weakness in the U.S. consumer creates significant concern.”

Higher gasoline prices are persisting, becoming a bigger concern for Americans already dealing with rising grocery bills. The report showed confidence among households with annual incomes exceeding $100,000 fell to the lowest level since November, posing a risk for consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy. The Bloomberg comfort index, which began December 1985, fell to a record low of minus 54 in November 2008, while the peak of 38 was reached in January 2000. Readings averaged minus 45.7 last year.

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