23 January 2003, 09:52  Consumer confidence plummets to 9-year low

NEW YORK - U.S. consumer confidence fell hard to a new nine-year low last week as renewed war fears and rising oil prices dampened faith in the Bush administration's handling of the economy, a report said on Tuesday. ABC News/Money Magazine said its weekly Consumer Confidence index staged one of its largest one-week drop ever to -27 in the week ended Jan. 19 from an already shaky -21. "Consumer confidence is quite vulnerable to oil and gasoline prices, and oil prices have risen to a two-year high," the report said, noting that the last time its confidence index was this low was in December 1993. The survey also noted that a separate ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that, for the first time in his presidency, a majority of Americans -- 53 percent -- disapprove of President Bush's handling of the economy.
Twenty-four percent of Americans who participated in the ABC/Money poll rated the economy in a positive light, down from 26 percent in the previous week. The survey's buying climate gauge, showed that only 34 percent of Americans think now is a good time to spend their cash, an ominous sign for crucial consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. Consumers are also credited for keeping the country's financial juices flowing during the most recent downturn. Most Americans -- 52 percent -- still rate their personal finances positively, but that component of the index also fell, from 55 percent in the previous week. ABC/Money said The results released on Tuesday reflected the result of 1,008 interviews in the month ending Jan. 19, with an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.//www.charlotte.com

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