Oct. 13, 2009 — -- Consumer confidence lost its mild forward momentum this week, with Americans' ratings of their own finances now their weakest since July. Nonetheless relatively few think the economy's getting even worse – a dramatic change from the record pessimism a year ago.
Peering into the abyss on Oct. 13, 2008, a remarkable 82 percent of Americans said the economy was getting worse – a record in ABC News polls back to 1981. Today, 32 percent say so, almost matching the fewest in the last five years, 31 percent in August.
The fact that fewer say the economy's worsening, of course, is at least in part a function of how bad it is now – and for vast numbers, it's plenty bad. Just 11 percent rate the economy positively, 25 percent call it a good time to spend money and 42 percent say their own finances are O.K., all far below their averages in 23 years of weekly polls. ABC's Consumer Comfort Index, based on these, stands at -48 on its scale of -100 to +100, compared with a long-term average of –12.
The index had climbed 4 points in four weeks only to return this week to its early September level, matching its yearlong average. Ratings of personal finances are down 6 points since late August.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke last week indicated interest rates will stay low for the time being. But that alone's unlikely to improve consumer sentiments, with unemployment at a 26-year high 9.8 percent.
CURRENT INDEX – As noted, 42 percent of Americans now rate their own finances positively, 15 points below the long-term average and just 3 points shy of the record low in late June. It's been below a majority for 22 weeks straight and all but two weeks this year.
Far fewer, 25 percent, say it's a good time to buy things, 12 points below average and below 30 percent for a record 83 weeks. And positive ratings of the national economy are a whopping 27 points below average.