US consumer confidence hit an all-time low this month, dropping unexpectedly in the face of layoffs and deteriorating investment markets. The Consumer Confidence Index, expected to rise incrementally to 45, fell to 38 in December from a revised 44.7 last month. The Present Situation index, which measures how respondents feel about business prospects, fell close to levels last seen after the 1990-1991 recession.
"Deepening job insecurity and falling asset prices are outweighing any optimism consumers may have derived from falling gas prices," an economist says. In a recent survey, those saying jobs are "hard to get" rose to 42% in December from 37% in November. Those claiming business conditions are "bad" increased to 46% in December from 41% last month.