NEW YORK — Americans' mood about the economy darkened further in January, sending a widely watched barometer of consumer sentiment to a new low, a private research group said Tuesday, as people worry about their jobs and watch their retirement funds dwindle.
The Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index edged down to 37.7 from a revised 38.6 in December, lower than the reading of 39 that economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected. In recent months the index has hit its lowest since it was begun in 1967, and is hovering at less than half its level of January 2007, when it was 87.3.
"It appears that consumers have begun the new year with the same degree of pessimism that they exhibited in the final months of 2008," Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement. "Looking ahead, consumers remain quite pessimistic about the state of the economy and about their earnings."
The Present Situation Index, which measures how shoppers feel now about the economy, declined slightly to 29.9 from 30.2 last month. The Expectations Index,which measures shoppers' outlook over the next six months, decreased to 43.0 from 44.2.
Franco added that, until she sees considerable improvement in shoppers' outlook for the economy, she can't say that "the worst of times are behind us."
Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.