14 May 2003, 16:06  US consumer confidence down for 3rd wk

NEW YORK, May 13 - U.S. consumer confidence fell for the third straight week, shedding more than two-thirds of the sharp gains that came after the U.S.-led war against Iraq began, a survey published on Tuesday showed. ABC News/Money Magazine said its weekly Consumer Comfort index fell to -24 in the week to May 11, down from -21 in the prior week and well below its post-war high of -15 in the week ended April 20. The index ranges from +100 to -100. The decline in the ABC News/Money Magazine index suggests that other gauges of consumer sentiment may decline in May after rising in April. The Investor's Business Daily Consumer Optimism index released on Tuesday showed a slight weakening. The University of Michigan preliminarily May consumer sentiment reading is due out on Friday. All three individual indexes that comprise ABC News/Money Magazine's poll fell in the latest week. The number of respondents who rated the economy positively was down to 27 percent from 30 percent.
The survey's buying climate gauge, which assesses Americans' willingness to spend their cash, fell to 35 percent from 37 percent. Fifty-four percent of respondents rated their outlook on their personal finances as excellent or good, a 2-point drop from 56 percent in the prior week. Economists watch consumer confidence surveys for clues about consumer spending, but analysts note that the correlation between consumer confidence and consumer spending is low. The weekly ABC/Money poll is based on 1,001 interviews, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.//

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