Consumer Confidence: Into the Death Zone

Consumer confidence matched its low for the year this week, with the ABC News Consumer Comfort Index extending a steep 9-point, six-week drop from what had been its 2010 high.

The weekly index, based on Americans’ views of the national economy, the buying climate and their personal finances, stands at -50 on its scale of +100 to -100, just 4 points from its lowest on record in nearly 25 years of weekly polls, set in December 2008 and January 2009.

Underscoring its current deep weakness, the CCI has been -50 or lower just 27 times in 1,284 weekly polls – all but one of them since August 2008. (The other, February 1992.) It's in effect the death zone for consumer sentiment.

The CCI has been this low twice previously this year, in February and April, then advanced through late June before turning back down. Compare -50 to its 24-year average, -13.

The index's recent trend anticipated the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which today reported that personal expenditures and personal incomes alike were flat in June, the first time personal incomes hadn’t risen month-to-month in nearly a year. Like the CCI, these data signal the economy’s continued struggles and, with 9.5 percent unemployment, the pernicious effect of a jobs market that’s been so weak for so long.

Among the CCI’s individual measures, 92 percent of Americans now say the national economy is in bad shape, the most since mid-April; 76 percent call it a bad time to spend money, the most since early May; and 57 percent say their own finances are hurting.

Ratings of the economy overall are a dramatic 29 points worse than their long-term average. Ratings of the buying climate are 13 points worse, as are ratings personal finances. Majorities have rated their own finances negatively every week of 2010, save the first week of the year.

Click here for tables with this week’s CCI data.

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