Consumer confidence falls to 92.2 in February

Friday, February 19, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 8

WASHINGTON (AP) — Consumer confidence fell in February to the lowest level in seven months as worries about a slowing economy and tumbling stock prices took a toll.

The Conference Board said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dipped to 92.2 this month, down from a reading of 97.8 in January, which had been a three-month high. The February reading was the lowest since confidence stood at 91.0 in July.

Consumers' assessment of current conditions weakened due to less favorable views about business conditions and the labor market.

The percentage of people saying business conditions were good fell to 26 percent, down from 27.7 percent, while the percentage that said business conditions were bad increased to 19.8 percent from 18.8 percent.

Consumers also had a less positive appraisal of the labor market with those saying jobs were plentiful falling to 22.1 percent from 23 percent.

"Apparently the consumer is not immune to all these nervous financial market headlines we have seen," said Chris Rupkey, an analyst with Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York. "We hope the consumer doesn't lose heart because consumer spending is two-thirds of the economy."

Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators for the Conference Board, said even with the February decline, consumer views on current conditions remained at levels that suggest the economy will keep growing at a moderate pace in coming months.

Strong job market gains and low gasoline prices have helped to bolster consumers' views.

In January, the economy created 151, 000 jobs, which helped to push the unemployment rate down to 4.9 percent.

The stock market has been rattled by the impact of China's persistent economic slowdown and a plunge in the price of oil and other commodities, which is a boon to consumers but hurts the bottom line for energy companies.

The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, slowed to a meager annual growth rate of 0.7 percent in the October-December quarter. But economists believe the solid job gains and low gas prices will give a boost to consumer spending and help lift overall economic growth to around 2 percent in the current January-March quarter.