U.S. Consumer Confidence Plummets In August

By John S. McClenahen As if to deliberately counterpoint the dramatic increase in manufactured durable goods orders in July, one measure of consumer confidence fell sharply this month. The Consumer Confidence Index compiled by the Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, fell dramatically to 93.5 in August from 97.4 in July (1985 = 100). August's mark is the index's lowest level since November of last year. Maury Harris, chief U.S. economist at UBS Warburg LLC, New York, notes that the Conference Board index shows consumers more negative on the U.S. economy than do the latest University of Michigan and UBS confidence indexes. "The Conference Board measure is more heavily influenced by job market conditions, and that could be the source of the difference," he observes. "Even so, we would be inclined to wait to see a rise in the [initial claims for unemployment insurance] data before concluding that the job market is in trouble." The U.S. Labor Department's next batch of jobless claims data, for the week ending Aug. 24, is slated to be released Aug. 29.

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