The Conference Board's Consumer Confidence Index tumbled to 64.0 in February, the lowest reading since the index hit 60.5 in October 1993 and well below analysts' expectations of 77.0 for February.
"Lackluster job and financial markets, rising fuel costs, and the increasing threat of war and terrorism appear to have taken a toll on consumers," says Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board’s consumer research center. "This month’s confidence readings paint a gloomy picture of current economic conditions, with no apparent rebound on the short-term horizon."
The Expectations Index, intended to measure sentiment about conditions in the next six months, fell to 65.6 from 81.1 a month ago, while the Present Situation Index dropped to 61.6 from 75.3.
The consumer confidence index is based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households and compares to its base of 100 set in 1985.
Consumers have grown extremely wary as the United States inches closer to war with Iraq, driving down their confidence in the economy to its lowest level in nearly a decade, The Conference Board noted.