Consumer Confidence in U.S. Unexpectedly Falls

Confidence among U.S. consumers unexpectedly fell in October for a second month as Americans fretted about a lack of jobs.

The Conference Board’s confidence index dropped to 47.7 from a revised 53.4 in September, a report from the New York- based private research group showed today. A measure of employment availability deteriorated to a 26-year low.

Mounting unemployment threatens to restrain consumer spending entering the Christmas-holiday shopping season. Without a sustained rebound in the biggest part of the economy, the emerging recovery may fall short of expectations.

An earlier report today showed home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose in August for a third straight month. The S&P/Case- Shiller home-price index climbed 1 percent from the prior month on a seasonally adjusted basis, after a 1.2 percent increase in July. Compared with a year earlier, prices were down 11.3 percent, less than the median forecast of economists surveyed.

The Conference Board’s measure of present conditions dropped to 20.7, the lowest level since February 1983. The gauge of expectations for the next six months decreased to 65.7 from 73.7.

The share of consumers who said jobs are plentiful dropped to 3.4 percent from 3.6 percent. The proportion of people who said jobs are hard to get increased to 49.6 percent, the highest level since May 1983, from 47 percent.

The proportion of people who expect their incomes to rise over the next six months decreased to 10.3 percent from 11.2 percent. The share expecting more jobs fell to 16.3 percent from 18 percent.

Consumers remain quite pessimistic about their future earnings, a sentiment that will likely constrain spending during the holidays,” Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement.

Government reports have shown that while companies are slowing the pace of firing they are reluctant to hire. The U.S. has lost 7.2 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007.

Buying plans for automobiles, homes and major appliances within the next six months all decreased this month, today’s report showed.

Today’s report mimics a decline seen in the Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment issued earlier this month.

Economists say the Conference Board’s index tends to be more influenced by attitudes about the labor market., Bloomberg
10/27/2009 10:32:34 AM