Consumer confidence continues to hover in negative double digits, above its recent lows but below its recent average — with little optimism about the economy's direction.
The ABC News/Washington Post Consumer Comfort Index stands at -13 on its scale of +100 to -100, unchanged from last week and in negative double digits for three months, its longest low stretch in more than a year. While the CCI has improved since bottoming out in mid-August at -20, that recovery looks to have stalled.
In a separate, monthly measure of expectations, just 11 percent think the economy is improving, similar to last month and about half the long-term average. Five times as many think the economy's getting worse; it's been around that since spring.
INDEX — The ABC/Post CCI is based on Americans' ratings of the national economy, personal finances and the buying climate. This week 36 percent say it's a good time to buy things and the same number rate the economy positively; both have been stable the past month. More, 59 percent, say their personal finances are good; that's up six points since its 2007 low point of 53 percent in mid-August.
EXPECTATIONS — Last month optimism reached its lowest point in nearly 15 years, with only eight percent saying the economy was getting better. At 11 percent this month, it's essentially the same.
Fifty-five percent say the economy is worsening, near its 2007 high of 57 percent two months ago and up from last month's 49 percent. The number of pessimists currently is 16 points higher than its long-term average, 39 percent, in polls since March 1981.
Optimists haven't outnumbered pessimists since January 2004.
TREND — Consumer confidence has held steady in a three-point range for the last four weeks. At -13 it's up seven points since reaching its 2007 low of -20 on Aug. 19, when the CCI took an historic nine-point one-week tumble. Confidence has been in negative double digits since Aug. 12, a 10-week stretch not seen since July to October 2006.
The CCI has averaged -8 in 2007 — on track as its best annual average since 2001 — and -9 in weekly polls since late 1985. It peaked at +38 in January 2000 and bottomed out at -50 in February 1992.
GROUPS — As usual the CCI is higher in better-off groups. It's +38 among higher-income people while -50 among those with the lowest incomes, +3 among those who've been to college while -48 among high-school dropouts, -11 among whites but -37 among blacks and -1 among men vs. -23 among women.
Partisan differences continue this week: The index is +14 among Republicans, but -18 among independents and -28 among Democrats.
Here's a closer look at the three components of the ABC/Post CCI:
NATIONAL ECONOMY — Thirty-six percent of Americans rate the economy as excellent or good; it was 35 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-nine percent say their own finances are excellent or good; it was 61 percent last week. The best was 70 percent last reached in January 2000. The worst was 42 percent on March 14, 1993.
BUYING CLIMATE — Thirty-six percent say it's an excellent or good time to buy things; it was 34 percent last week. The best was 57 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The worst was 20 percent in fall 1990.
METHODOLOGY — Interviews for the ABC News/Washington Post Consumer Comfort Index are reported in a four-week rolling average. This week's results are based on telephone interviews among a random national sample of 1,000 adults in the four weeks ending Oct. 14, 2007. The results have a three-point error margin. The expectations question was asked of 500 respondents Sept. 30-Oct. 14; that result has a 4.5-point error margin. Field work by ICR-International Communications Research of Media, Pa.
The index is derived by subtracting the negative response to each index question from the positive response to that question. The three resulting numbers are 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.