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Poll: Confidence in a standstill
ABC News/Money poll shows that consumer confidence remains in a summer rut.
August 26, 2003: 6:30 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Mired in a summer rut, consumer confidence continued to drag last week.

The ABC News/Money magazine Consumer Comfort Index, which gauges current economic conditions, stands at -17 on its scale of +100 to -100. It's been stuck between -21 and -16 since May 25, and has been at -17 for four of the last five weeks.

The index, which began in December 1985, has a lifetime average of -9. It peaked at +38 in January 2000 and bottomed out at -50 in February 1992. It's averaged -21 so far this year.

Thirty-one percent of Americans rate the nation's economy as excellent or good, up from 29 percent the week prior. While positive economic ratings remain weak, they match the 2003 high of 31 percent. The highest level of confidence in this category was set at 80 percent in January 2000 and the lowest, 7 percent, in late 1991 and early 1992.

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But slightly fewer respondents expressed positive feelings towards their own personal finances than in the previous week. Fifty-six percent rate their own finances as excellent or good, down from 59 percent the week prior. Consumer confidence for this category peaked at 70 percent in August 1998 and January 2000, but bottomed out at 42 percent in March 1993.

The survey's buying gauge, which measures consumers' willingness to spend, remained flat at 38 percent. Though unchanged from the previous week, this gauge bears watching in the coming weeks amid rising gasoline prices. In the past it has worsened when fuel costs have increased. The highest level of consumer confidence in this category, 57 percent, was set in January 2000, and its 20 percent low was set in the fall of 1990.

Separately, the Conference Board, a business research group based in New York, said its closely watched index of consumer confidence rose to 81.3 from a revised 77 in July. Economists, on average, expected the index to rise to about 80, according to a Reuters poll.

The ABC News/Money magazine Consumer Comfort Index represents a rolling average based on telephone interviews with a random sample of about 1,000 adults nationwide each month. Last week's results are based on 1,006 interviews in the month ended Aug. 24, 2003, and have an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points.  Top of page

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