By  on April 25, 2007

The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index plunged in April, amid a backdrop of less favorable labor market conditions and higher gasoline prices.

The Consumer Confidence Index came in at 104, down from 108.2 in March. The index's two components fell in April with the Present Situation Index dropping to 131.3 from 138.5 last month, and the Expectations Index falling to 85.8 from 87.9.

"Unlike the decline in March, which was solely the result of apprehension about the short-term outlook, this month's decline was a combination of weakening expectations and a less favorable assessment of present-day conditions….The decline in the Present Situation Index, the first decline in six months, warrants monitoring in the months ahead, as further declines would suggest a softening in growth," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center.

UBS economist Maury Harris wrote in his research note Tuesday, "Some of the recent weakening in confidence can likely be attributed to higher gasoline prices. Gasoline prices averaged $2.87 per gallon during the Conference Board survey period, up from $2.60, on average, during the March survey period….Gasoline prices were $2.92 per gallon in the Energy Department's most recent weekly report [Monday]."

Harris noted that this month's decline partly reflected less positive perceptions of the labor market in April.

According to the survey, respondents who claimed current-day conditions are "good" declined to 26.5 percent from 28.6 percent. Those saying conditions are "bad" inched up to 15 percent from 14.5 percent. But consumers who said jobs are "hard to get" increased to 20.4 percent from 18.9 percent, while respondents who said jobs are "plentiful" fell to 27.8 percent from 30.3 percent last month.

On the expectations front, those polled who anticipate business conditions to worsen in the next six months rose to 10.2 percent from 9.8 percent. Moreover, those expecting conditions to improve slipped to 13.5 percent from 14.5 percent.

On the jobs front, consumers expecting fewer jobs in the months ahead edged down to 15.7 percent from 16 percent, and those expecting more jobs to become available edged up to 12.9 percent from 12.7 percent. The proportion of consumers expecting their incomes to increase in the months ahead declined to 17 percent from 18 percent last month.

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