Consumer confidence slumps to record low

NEW YORK Tue Oct 28, 2008 11:04am EDT

Shoppers carry their purchases along Broadway in New York City, May 11, 2008. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

Shoppers carry their purchases along Broadway in New York City, May 11, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Lott

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumer confidence plunged to a record low in October as a worsening financial crisis left Americans anxious about their jobs and pessimistic about future prospects, a report said on Tuesday.

The Conference Board said its index measuring consumer sentiment tumbled to 38.0 in October from an upwardly revised 61.4 in September. That was the lowest reading since the index began in 1967. The previous low was 43.2 in December 1974.

The result was well below economists' expectations for a reading of 52.0 and comes after a modest improvement in consumers' mood the prior month. Even the most pessimistic forecast of the 74 economists surveyed by Reuters was 45.0.

"The impact of the financial crisis over the last several weeks has clearly taken a toll on consumers' confidence," the survey quoted Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, as saying.

Franco said consumers' outlook on the labor market and the inflation outlook both deteriorated, "and this news does not bode well for retailers who are already bracing for what is shaping up to be a very challenging holiday season."

Consumers' evaluation of their present situation fell to 41.9, its lowest since December 1992, from an upwardly revised 61.1 in September. A year ago, it stood at 118.0. The expectations subindex plunged to 35.5 from an upwardly revised 61.5 last month and from 80.0 a year ago.

The gauge of consumers' inflation expectations rose to 6.9 percent -- the highest since July -- from September's 6.2 percent.

(Reporting by Steven C. Johnson; Editing by James Dalgleish)