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Consumer Confidence Declines as Fiscal Cliff Looms

Wall Street Journal (12/28/12) Josh Mitchell

The Conference Board reported on Dec. 27 its consumer confidence index fell six percentage points in December from a month earlier to 65.1, its lowest level since August. That came just days after another gauge, the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, also declined significantly. The reports suggest American consumers have begun focusing on possible tax increases and government spending cuts in the new year.

Consumers surveyed by the Conference Board generally were more upbeat about the current state of the economy than they were in November, but their expectations for the coming six months fell sharply, dragging down the overall index. Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators and surveys at the Conference Board, says, “The sudden turnaround in expectations was most likely caused by uncertainty surrounding the oncoming fiscal cliff,” the $500 billion in combined tax increases and sweeping spending cuts scheduled to go into effect next week unless lawmakers find a way to avoid them. Franco points out that consumer confidence fell similarly in August 2011 after a protracted Washington battle over raising the government’s borrowing limit.