Consumer Confidence Slips in February

Conference BoardNEW YORK-Concerns over the economy’s short-term outlook ended the consumer confidence index’s brief two-month streak of gains in February. As compiled by The Conference Board, the index was down 1.3 points to 78.1.

A Conference Board statement said the expectations index, one of the two main components to the overall indicator, dragged consumer confidence down by falling 5.1 points to 75.7. Lynn Franco, the board’s director of economic indicators, said consumers in this month’s survey expressed their worries over short-term business conditions, jobs and earnings.

The other key component, the present situation index, increased 4.4 points to 81.7. “While expectations have fluctuated over recent months, current conditions have continued to trend upward, and the present situation index is now at its highest level in almost six years,” Franco said. In April 2008, this indicator stood at 81.9. “This suggests that consumers believe the economy has improved, but they do not foresee it gaining considerable momentum in the months ahead,” she said.

Underscoring Franco’s points, the percentage of consumers who expect better business conditions over the next six months declined, while the ratio of those expecting business conditions to worsen increased. The same held true for jobs. Those anticipating fewer jobs increased, while those looking ahead to more jobs declined.

Meanwhile, the percentage of consumers rating current business conditions as “good” rose in the February survey, while the percentage of those saying business conditions are worse decreased.

Respondents also gave rosier views of the state of the labor market, with more saying that jobs are “plentiful” and fewer saying jobs are “hard to get.”