Consumers whither in meltdown

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adfutures_medium.jpgREUTERS — U.S. consumer confidence plunged to another record low in February with expectations that already dire economic conditions will continue to weaken and the jobs market will further deteriorate.

The Conference Board, an industry group, said that its sentiment index fell to 25.0 from a downwardly revised 37.4 in January. The median forecast of economists polled by Reuters was for a reading of 35.5.

The February reading was a new all time low for the index, which began in 1967.

“All in all, 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 Research Centre.

In February, the expectations index plunged to 27.5 from 42.5 the previous month.

The present situation index fell to 21.2, the lowest since 1983, from 29.7 in January.

The index for the number of respondents saying jobs were hard to get rose to 47.8, the highest since February 1992, from 41.1, while the one for those claiming business conditions were bad rose to 51.1 in February from 47.9.

Only 8.7 percent of consumers expect business conditions to get better within the next six months, down from 12.8 percent in January, The Conference Board said.

The percentage of consumers expecting fewer jobs in the months ahead rose to 47.3 percent from 36.9 percent.

Reuters Group

Reporting by Chris Reese.

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