June 5, 2007 -- Consumer confidence has hit a new 2007 low for the third consecutive week, continuing a monthlong skid despite a slight reprieve in rising gas prices.
The ABC News/Washington Post Consumer Comfort Index stands at -15 on its scale of +100 to -100, down 12 points across the month of May. Only 12 times in 21 years has the CCI fallen this much or more over a four-week period -- the last time in September 2005, when it fell 14 points in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
This drop is largely due to the running up of gas prices this spring -- up about $1 since February. Some slight relief may be in sight; gas fell by a nickel this week, bringing the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded to $3.16.
Other factors may be providing more of a positive tug on consumer sentiment; job growth in May exceeded forecasts and the unemployment rate remains a low 4.5 percent.
INDEX -- The ABC/Post index is based on Americans' ratings of the national economy, the buying climate and their own finances. Ratings of the economy are down seven points in the last month, personal finances down eight and buying climate ratings down four.
The drop in ratings of personal finances, now 57 percent positive, is among the largest on record -- it's fallen this much or more over four weeks only six times before. While better nominally than the other gauges, it now matches its low for the year.
Ratings of the economy, 37 percent positive, are down by seven points from their yearly average; ratings of the buying climate, at 33 percent positive, remain five points off their average this year.
TREND -- The index is its lowest since Sept. 17 and well off its 2007 high, +2 on March 11. It's averaged -5 this year, compared with -10 last year and a long-term average of -9. It's ranged from a low of -50 in February 1992 to a high of +38 in January 2000.
GROUPS -- Confidence is higher among better-off groups. The index is +27 among higher-income Americans but -54 among those with the lowest incomes, -1 among college graduates while -41 among those who haven't finished high school, -11 among whites but -43 among blacks and -5 among men while -25 among women. It's much higher among Republicans (+17) than among independents (-28) or Democrats (-24).
Here's a closer look at the three components of the ABC/Post CCI:
NATIONAL ECONOMY -- Thirty-seven percent of Americans rate the economy as excellent or good; it was 39 percent last week. The highest was 80 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The lowest was seven percent in late 1991 and early 1992.
PERSONAL FINANCES -- Fifty-seven percent say their own finances are excellent or good; it was 58 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-three percent rate the buying climate as excellent or good, it was 33 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 June 3, 2007. The results have a three-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.