The Conference Board today reported that its consumer confidence index dropped to 75 in February its lowest reading since March 2003 largely because of concerns over employment and the housing market. The February index number, which fell from 87.3 in January, was below economists consensus forecast of 82. The six-month expectations component of the index dropped to 57.9, its lowest since January 1991, the Conference Board said in a news release.
The consumer confidence index continues losing ground and, with the exception of the (start of the) Iraq War in 2003, is now at its lowest level in nearly 15 years, Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in the release. Consumers expectations have also deteriorated significantly and are now at a 17-year low, referring to the 55.3 rating in January 1991, when the U.S. economy barely skirted a recession.
Separately, expectations for further interest rate cuts were dampened by a Labor Department report also issued today saying wholesale prices shot up by a greater-than-expected 1% in February.
In another report today, Standard & Poors said its S&P/Case-Shiller home price index for 20 metropolitan areas dropped 8.9% for the year ended Dec. 31, the biggest decline in 20 years.