The stock market spooked US consumers in February

The stock market spooked US consumers in February.

The Conference Board’s reading on consumer confidence plunged in February to 92.2, well below expectations.

Expectations were for the reading to come in at 97.2, down from January’s 98.1. January’s number was revised down slightly to 97.8.

Tuesday’s reading is based on responses through February 11.

“Consumer confidence decreased in February, after posting a modest gain in January,” said Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board.

“Consumers’ assessment of current conditions weakened, primarily due to a less favourable assessment of business conditions. Consumers’ short-term outlook grew more pessimistic, with consumers expressing greater apprehension about business conditions, their personal financial situation, and to a lesser degree, labour market prospects. Continued turmoil in the financial markets may be rattling consumers, but their assessment of current conditions suggests the economy will continue to expand at a moderate pace in the near-term.”

A core worry among economists who fear the US economy is trending towards recession is that financial market concerns will rattle US consumers, leading to a pullback in spending, a decline in economic activity, and a downtrend in the economy that is and becomes self-reinforcing.

Tuesday’s report showed that consumers’ outlook on present-day economic conditions, as well as their short-term outlook, both decline in February.

The per cent of consumers who said that jos are “plentiful” also decreased in February, to 22.1% from 23%.

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