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Consumer confidence in U.S. falls more than forecast

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index declined from 56.5 in January to 46.0 in February. The consensus was just expected to drop to 55.0. The drop in the index was much stronger than the decline in February's preliminary reading of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index and signals a possible further reduction in the revised number.

Consumers registered strong negative feelings for both the near and long-term. The present situation index declined from 25.2 to 19.4 while the expectations index fell from 77.3 to 63.8. The drop in the index comes in the face of falling unemployment, lower gasoline prices, and more positive news about the economy in the media.

Confidence among U.S. consumers fell more than anticipated in February to the lowest level since April 2009 as the outlook for jobs diminished; a sign spending may be slow to gain traction as the economy recovers.

The following is a full report fro dated February 23. 2010

The Conference Board’s confidence index declined to 46, exceeding the lowest forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of economists, from a revised 56.5 in January, a report from the New York-based private research group showed today. Concerns about the economy and the labor market pushed an index of current conditions to its lowest in 27 years.
Stocks extended losses and Treasuries gained after the report indicated a lack of job growth and impaired household finances threaten to restrain consumer spending. Without sustained growth in the biggest part of the economy, the expansion may be slow to gain momentum.

“Consumers are having a bumpy start to the year,” Julia Coronado, a senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, said before the report. “They took another minor hit to their wealth as the stock market took a breather, and labor market conditions are still difficult.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 0.8 percent to 1,098.69 at 10:14 a.m. in New York. The 10-year Treasury note rose, pushing down the yield eight basis points to 3.72 percent.

Economists forecast confidence would decrease to 55 from a previously reported 55.9 for January, according to the median of 68 projections in a Bloomberg survey. Estimates ranged from 50.9 to 59.

Home-Price Index
A separate report showed seasonally adjusted home prices rose in December for a seventh straight month. The S&P/Case- Shiller home-price index of 20 U.S. cities increased 0.3 percent. Compared with December 2008, prices fell 3.1 percent, the smallest year-over-year decline since May 2007.

The Conference Board’s measure of present conditions decreased to 19.4 from 25.2 the prior month.

The share of consumers who said jobs are plentiful fell to 3.6 percent from 4.4 percent, according to the Conference Board. The proportion of people who said jobs are hard to get increased to 47.7 percent from 46.5 percent.

The gauge of expectations for the next six months decreased to 63.8, the lowest since July 2009, from 77.3 the prior month.

The proportion of people who expect their incomes to increase over the next six months declined to 9.5 percent from 11 percent. The share expecting more jobs in the next six months fell to 13.4 percent from 15.8 percent.

Fed and Economy
Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley last week indicated policy makers are more concerned about maintaining growth than they are about immediate inflation threats. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke may deliver a similar message to Congress the next two days during his semi-annual report on the economy and interest rates.

The U.S. lost 20,000 jobs last month after a 150,000 decline in December, according to Labor Department data released earlier this month.

The unemployment rate is expected to average 9.8 percent this year, according to the median forecast of a Bloomberg survey taken early this month. Limited hiring may restrain consumer purchases and overall growth.

Stocks have declined this year, with the S&P 500 dropping 1.2 percent after gaining 23 percent in 2009.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, will grow 2 percent this year, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg this month. That would follow last year’s 0.6 percent decline, the worst showing since 1974.

The world’s largest economy will expand 3 percent this year after shrinking 2.4 percent in 2009, according to the median forecast of economists.

Retail Sales
Retail sales in January rose for a third time in four months, a sign the recovery in spending continued into the New Year. Sales last month increased 0.5 percent, the government said Feb. 12.

Some retailers are becoming more optimistic. Lowe’s Cos. the second-largest U.S. home-improvement retailer, posted fourth-quarter profit that exceeded analysts’ estimates after better-than-forecast sales signaled a recovery in the housing market.

“While the psychological impact of falling home prices and an uncertain employment picture continue to weigh” on consumers, Americans are “gaining the confidence to take on more discretionary projects.” Robert Niblock, Lowe’s chief executive officer, said in a statement Feb. 22. “The worst of the economic cycle is likely behind us.”

Gregory Menges is a founder of Boston Independent Advisors. Greg is a seasoned financial advisor with more than 15 years experience serving individuals, families, business owners, and company sponsored retirement plans. All securities offered through Investors Capital Corp., Member FINRA/SIPC -- Advisory Services offered through Investors Capital Advisory.
100 Franklin Street, Suite 604, Boston, MA 02110, (877) 338-1330 x201


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