Keeping Track: consumer confidence

Will shoppers delay their big-ticket purchases?

Amid mounting layoffs and a slump on Wall Street, consumers have carried the nation's economy on their backs for much of 2001. But new polls of consumer attitudes raise questions about their continued willingness to spend.

One barometer, the Conference Board's index of consumer confidence, released Tuesday, showed a drop of nearly 18 points in September, the largest one-month dip since October 1990. The University of Michigan's Survey of Consumer Sentiment, released Friday, hit its lowest level in eight years, sliding nearly 10 points.

That index (below) showed a drop in confidence about a week after the Sept. 11 attacks. Experts are debating the timetable for recovery.

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