Consumers gloomier for 2nd straight month

Index falls more than expected as the bleak job market overshadows enthusiasm about rising stock prices.

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By Ben Rooney, staff writer

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NEW YORK ( -- A key index of consumer confidence fell more than expected in July as the dismal job market continued to darken the outlook for household spending.

The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index fell to 46.6 in July from a reading of 49.3 in June.

Economists had expected the index to decline to 49, according to a consensus forecast gathered by

The measure's present situation index fell to 23.4 from 25 last month. The expectations index slipped to 62 from 65.5.

The overall index, which fell to an all-time low in February, had recovered earlier this year as consumers were heartened by a rally on Wall Street, lower energy prices and new government programs to aid the economy.

But that optimism was premature and has given way to concerns about the weak job market, according to Adam York, an economist at Wells Fargo Economics Group.

"Now it seems we have a renewed sinking feeling," York said in a research report.

In June, the economy lost 467,000 jobs and the unemployment rate rose to 9.5%. Many economists think the jobless rate will top 10% later this year.

"With the economy still losing a massive number of jobs each month and the unemployment rate well on its way to double digits, we do not expect a meaningful improvement in confidence in the near term," York said.

Measures of consumer confidence are closely watched by economists and investors because spending by consumers makes up nearly two-thirds of U.S. gross domestic product.

"More consumers are pessimistic about their income expectations, which does not bode well for spending in the months ahead," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center, said in a statement.

Economists predict GDP fell at an annual rate of 1.5% in the second quarter of this year after a 5.5% drop in the first quarter. The government will release its advance second-quarter GDP report Friday. To top of page

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