Consumer confidence is on a cold streak, locked in place since the beginning of the year at very near its worst-ever rating – and more than three in four think the economy is stalled or will decline in coming months.
The ABC News Consumer Comfort Index stands at -49 on its scale of +100 to -100, in a 2-point range and without significant movement for the past six weeks. It is hovering just 5 points from its all-time low, -54 last January, and is far worse than its long-term average, -13 in 24 years of weekly polls.
A separate, forward-looking measure finds little in the way of optimism for the economy's future. Just 23 percent think things are getting better and 77 percent say the economy is staying the same or getting worse – a chilling assessment given the very low ratings of current sentiment.
A key indicator from last week's ABC News/Washington Post poll underscores these persistent negative feelings. Eighty-eight percent think that the economy, despite what economists say to the contrary, is still in a recession. And on a more personal note, 53 percent say that based on their experience the economy has not begun to recover.
CURRENT INDEX – The CCI is based on Americans' ratings of the national economy, their personal finances and the buying climate. Current views of the economy are the worst of the three measures; only 8 percent rate it positively, 30 points below the long-term average and in single digits for 12 weeks straight.
Just 24 percent call it a good time to spend money, 13 points worse than average. And 44 percent rate their personal finances positively, 3 points worse than last week and 13 points below average.
BETTER/WORSE – As noted, the separate, forward-looking measure of the direction of the economy finds 23 percent saying things are getting better and 34 percent worse, basically unchanged from last month. Economic optimists are numerically at their lowest level since last March, albeit not significantly so.
The number who say things are staying the same is up to 43 percent, the highest number to say so in more than three years. Saying things are holding steady is a decidedly negative place to be, considering how low consumer confidence has been this year.
TREND – The CCI has been at -49 for three of the last five weeks and hasn't seen significant movement since early January, when it dropped 6 points, an unusually big one-week shift. Since then it's been stuck in a 2-point range, teetering just above the -50 mark, last reached in October.
The index has been below -40 for a record 95 consecutive weeks. It's averaged -47 this year, compared with -48 last year, its worst year on record. Its best year was +29 in 2000, its best week, +38 in January that year.
GROUPS – The index as usual is higher among better-off Americans, but has been negative across the board for 51 weeks straight, the longest such run in available data since 1990.
It's -1 among those with the highest incomes but -68 among those with the lowest, -39 among people who've attended college vs. -66 among those who never finished high school, -45 among homeowners but -63 among renters (their lowest since October) and -44 among men vs. -55 among women (their lowest since November).
The usual racial gap has been smaller this year and this week, with the index at -50 among whites and -46 among blacks; long-term, by contrast, blacks have been less positive by an average 27 points.