US consumer confidence plunges to historic low

Americans anticipate no improvement anytime soon, the Conference Board reports.

Mark Lennihan/AP
A woman passes a window display at Saks Fifth Ave. department store in New York. Saks is eliminating 1,100 jobs.

Glum and glummer.

That's how US consumers feel in the midst of worsening economic conditions and little hope that the situation will rebound, according to new data released Tuesday morning.

Consumer confidence reached a new low in February, according to the Conference Board, with its confidence index plunging to a reading of 25.0. That represents a 12-point dive since January alone and the worst reading by far since the business organization began taking readings in February 1967.

The group's expectations index also fell dramatically – from 42.5 in January to 27.5 this month.

"Not only do consumers feel overall economic conditions have grown more dire, but just as disconcerting, they anticipate no improvement in conditions over the next six months," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center, in a statement.

Tuesday's numbers were breathtakingly low. Until the current slump, the confidence survey had never hit lower than 43.2 in December 1974. In two of the past three recessions, the confidence index remained lower than 80 for more than a year – 19 months in the early 1980s and 33 months in the shallower 1991-92 recession.

In this recession, consumer confidence numbers have remained below 80 for nine straight months so far.

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