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Consumer Confidential: Confidence slides, BofA's site sputters, game sales drop

January 14, 2011 | 10:35 am

Mariopic Here's your figure-it-out Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Now that the holidays are behind us, consumers are getting a bit more sober-minded about the economy. Consumer confidence unexpectedly declined in January as gas prices rose and the unemployment rate stayed at scary-high levels. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment for the month dropped to the lowest since November. The drop in optimism "reflects a frustration with the lack of labor market progress," says David Semmens, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank. "Until employers start hiring aggressively enough to bring down unemployment, improvements in consumer sentiment will be slow." But you already know that.

--If you're a Bank of America customer, and if you wanted to do a little online banking, you might want to get some coffee or something first. BofA's website has been having technical problems that are resulting in some customers not being able to log into their account and bill-pay systems. The bank says the problems began around 4 a.m. Pacific time. Most customers have since been able to access their accounts, the bank says, but not all. There's no word on when things will get back to normal.

--Some dark clouds as well on the video-game front. Even though the Lazarus family has been single-handedly keeping the Wii industry afloat ($50 for a Super Mario game?!!), game and console sales are down for the second year in a row. Market researcher NPD Group says spending on gaming hardware, software and accessories in 2010 was $18.6 billion, down 6% from 2009's $19.7 billion, which was itself down 8% from 2008's record $21.4 billion. The one bright spot was accessory sales, which rose 13%, although this was due primarily to higher prices for controllers and whatnot. Did I mention how pricey some of these darned games are?

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Video games are duking it out for consumers' favor. Credit: Nintendo