Consumer Confidence Stalls

Consumer confidence treaded water this week, failing to build on last week’s strong gain, but still holding just above its long-term average.

The ABC News/"Money" magazine Consumer Comfort index stands at -7 on its scale of +100 to -100. It was -5 last week, up from -11 the week before -- matching the second largest one-week gain in this poll’s history, dating back to December 1985.

The ABC/"Money" index is based on Americans’ ratings of the economy, their personal finances and the buying climate. All three ratings are at or just above their overall averages.

Forty-one percent say the economy’s in good shape; the 18-year average is 40 percent. Forty-two percent call it a good time to buy things, compared with an average of 39 percent. And most, 57 percent, say their own finances are OK, matching the average.

TREND -- The ABC/"Money" index peaked this year at -3 in mid-January, and bottomed out at -22 in mid-March. So far, it’s averaged -11 across the year. Its long-term average is -9.

Since December 1985, the index has ranged from a high of +38 in January 2000 to a low of -50 in February 1992. Its worst annual average was -44 in 1992. Last year it averaged -19, much worse than its best yearly average, +29 in 2000.

GROUPS -- As usual, confidence is stronger among better-off Americans. The index is +44 among high-income people while -48 among those with the lowest incomes; +6 among college graduates while -39 among high-school dropouts; -1 among whites but -35 among blacks; and +4 among men but -15 among women.

Here's a closer look at the three components of the ABC News/"Money" index:

NATIONAL ECONOMY -- Forty-one percent of Americans rate the U.S. economy as excellent or good; it was 42 percent last week. The highest was 80 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The lowest was 7 percent in late 1991 and early 1992.

PERSONAL FINANCES -- Fifty-seven percent say their own finances are excellent or good, the same as last week. The best was 70 percent on Aug. 30, 1998, matched in January 2000. The worst was 42 percent on March 14, 1993.

BUYING CLIMATE -- Forty-two percent say it’s an excellent or good time to buy things; it was 43 percent last week. The best was 57 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The worst was 20 percent in fall 1990.

METHODOLOGY -- 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. This week's results are based on 1,000 interviews in the four weeks ending Nov. 7, 2004, and have an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points. Field work was conducted by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.

The ABC News/"Money" index is derived as follows: The negative response to each index question is subtracted from the positive response to that question. The three resulting numbers are then added and divided by three. The index can range from +100 (everyone positive on all three measures) to -100 (all negative on all three measures). The survey began in December 1985.

Click here for PDF version with charts and data table.

See previous analyses in our Poll Vault.