November delivers another hit to sinking consumer confidence

<p><p>WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer confidence fell to a nine-month low in November, clipped by rising prices and concern about the coronavirus.</p></p><p><p>The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index dropped to a reading of 109.5, down from 111.6 in October. It was the lowest reading since the index stood at 95.2 in February.</p></p><p><p>The survey was completed on Nov. 19 and would not include the ramifications of omicron, a new variant of the coronavirus that has begun to spread with few solid answers about the damage it might do to the U.S. and global economies.</p></p><p><p>Even before the omicron variant appeared, consumer optimism was being tested by price spikes across the board, particularly for gasoline and food.</p></p><p><p>The Conference Board’s present situation index, which measures consumers’ assessment of current business and labor conditions, fell to 142.5, down from 145.5 in October.</p></p><p><p>The expectations index, based consumers’ outlook for income, business and labor market conditions, fell to 87.6 in November from 89.0 in October.</p></p><p><p>The Conference Board said that concerns about rising prices and to a lesser degree, lingering worries about the delta variant, were the primary drivers of the November decline.</p></p><p><p>But economists believe rising prices and any jolt from the omicron variant will not have a major impact on holiday spending this year, something that can have a sizable impact on the U.S. economy.</p></p><p><p>Nancy Vanden Houten, lead U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said she expected the omicron variant would have only a “moderate negative impact on growth.”</p></p><p><p>She is looking for the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, to expand at an annual rate of 7.9% in the current quarter ending in December, a big improvement from the lackluster 2.1% GDP gain in the July-September quarter.</p></p><p><p>The decline in the Conference Board confidence index followed an even bigger drop reported last week in the University of Michigan’s gauge of consumer sentiment, which fell in November to a decade-low of 7.4, compared to a final October reading of 71.7.</p></p><p><p>The smaller decline in the Conference Board survey reflects the fact that this index places more emphasis on the labor market, which has been performing well this year.</p></p>