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Consumer confidence at lowest point since 1980, report says

August 12, 2011 |  8:55 am

Sales Consumer confidence in August took a swan dive to its lowest level in three decades.

Even as they pushed retail sales up 0.5%, Americans were the most pessimistic they’ve been since May 1980, according to a preliminary index of sentiment created by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. 

The index slumped to 54.9 from 63.7 in July, as consumers fearfully took in seesawing stocks, high unemployment and politicians bickering over the country’s debt.

Perhaps sensing the queasy mood, U.S. companies kept tight watch over their inventories, increasing stockpiles just 0.3% rather than overload shelves, according to the Commerce Department.

Consumers’ perception of the financial environment and the wisdom of big-ticket purchases, measured by an index of current conditions, slipped to 69.3 from 75.8. They’re even less excited about the future, pushing an index of expectations six months down the road to 45.7 from 56.

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-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Shoppers arrive for a going-out-of-business sale at a Santa Monica boutique. Credit: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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