Consumer confidence falls on fiscal cliff fears

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumer confidence tumbled in December, driven lower by fears of sharp tax increases and government spending cuts set to take effect next week.

The Conference Board said Thursday that its consumer confidence index fell this month to 65.1, down from 71.5 in November. That’s the second straight decline and the lowest level since August.

The survey showed consumers are slightly more optimistic about current business conditions and hiring. But their outlook for the next six months deteriorated to its lowest level since 2011.

Lynn Franco, the board’s director of economic indicators, said the decline in expectations for the next six months is a signal that consumers are worried about the “fiscal cliff.” That’s the name for the automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that take effect Jan. 1 if the White House and Congress can’t reach a budget deal.

A separate survey released last week by the University of Michigan showed consumer confidence fell in December to a five-month low. And a report from MasterCard Advisors Spending pulse indicated holiday sales grew in the two months before Christmas at the weakest rate since 2008, when the country was in a deep recession.

The December drop in confidence “is obvious confirmation that a sudden and serious deterioration in hopes for the future took place in December — presumably reflecting concern about imminent `fiscal cliff’ tax increases,” Pierre Ellis, economist with Decision Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

At one point, the Dow Jones industrial average fell as much as 150 points. But the market came back in the final hour of trading on a potential sign of movement in the talks. The Dow recouped nearly all of its losses to close down just 18 points at 13,096.

More in Herald Business Journal

Health-care consumers need to take the lead, so get smart

David Russian, CEO of Western Washington Medical Group, writes our third essay about fixing health care.

Robots on Wall Street: Slow-footed regulators lose ground

Watchdogs have to figure out how to check computers running lightening-fast algorithms.

More business, more competition for Everett kidney dialysis center

Nonprofit Puget Sound Kidney Centers sees large for-profit competitors enter state market.

Molina Medical holds fall carnival for families in Everett

Molina Medical is hosting a free event for families in the Everett… Continue reading

Leadership Snohomish County celebrates 20 years of service

Leadership Snohomish County is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organization was launched… Continue reading

Snohomish, Monroe manufacturers honored for innovation, excellence

Two Snohomish County companies have been honored with Manufacturing Excellence awards at… Continue reading

Remodeled home tours planned this weekend

This weekend, Edmonds-based Chermak Construction will participate in the 2017 Remodeled Homes… Continue reading

Barron Heating to celebrate anniversary at Marysville showroom

Barron Heating and Air Conditioning is celebrating its 45th anniversary from 10… Continue reading

US budget deficit hits $666B, an $80B spike for the year

The deficit issue has largely fallen in prominence in Washington in recent years.

Most Read