US consumer confidence plunges

US consumer confidence has slumped in August as worries focused on the future outlook rather than current conditions, new data shows.

The US Conference Board’s index of consumer sentiment fell 15 points to 44.5 in August, down from 59.2 in July, as confidence fell to its lowest level since April 2009.

The result was below economists’ consensus forecasts for an index score of 52 and experts said it reflected a real contraction in US consumption.

The index relating to current conditions remained steady, but the forward-looking expectations index fell 23 points.

ING economist Rob Carnell said the index was “approaching some of the worst readings of the financial crisis part one” but cautioned that recent consumer spending figures belied the gloomy sentiment.

“Whilst this would ordinarily spell a patch of very weak or negative consumer spending, recent spending data have been pretty robust, and this relationship seems to be breaking down somewhat,” said ING economist Rob Carnell.

“Indeed, some of the intentions to buy autos or major appliances in the next six months expressed in this survey, seemed fairly positive, though these are not very reliable indicators.