The Conference Board's composite Consumer Confidence Index fell by 2.1% from December to January, reaching its lowest point since November 1993.
With a January 2003 reading of 79.0 on the Conference Board's scale, on which average confidence during 1985 is equal to an index level of 100, the most recent composite CCI was 19.2% lower than during the first month of 2002.
On balance, though, the January confidence report didn't show any significant deterioration in the CCI since October, when it stood at 79.6. In fact, the Present Situation subindex of the CCI rose by 8.3%% from December to January.
The problem during January was in the Expectations (defined as six months into the future) component of the CCI. This measure declined by 7.6% and was 16.6% lower in the first month of this new year than it was during January 2002.
However, despite the slight downturn in the national average CCI during January, confidence indexes for five of the nine regions of the nation recorded increases over the month. The sharpest improvements were registered in the subindexes covering the New England (+20.9%) and Rocky Mountain (+12.4%) states. The regional index covering the Middle Atlantic states (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) fell by the steepest amount from December to January. The CCI for every region of the country began the new year much lower than during January 2002.
And the part of the Conference Board's survey that measures actual buying plans (over the upcoming six months) of American households showed further deterioration during January as well. Concerns about jobs, terrorism and the long-term ramifications of the nation's presumptive military action to disarm Iraq continue to weigh heavily upon the minds and wallets of American consumers.
During January 2003, 27.8% of households surveyed told interviewers they planned to buy at least one major appliance during the first half of this year. As recently as August, an estimated 31.3% of American households indicated they planned to purchase a major appliance over the upcoming six months. Similarly, home buying plans dropped from a 4.5% share of households in August to an average of 3.2% over the five-month period since that date. And auto purchase intentions dipped to 6.7% during the first month of 2003 after peaking at a high of 8.3% in July.