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Americans feel worse about the economy in May than they have in eight months as worries about the weak jobs, housing and stock markets continue to rattle them.
The Conference Board, a private research group, said on Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index now stands at 64.9, down from a revised 68.7 in April.
The May figure, which represents the biggest drop since October 2011 when the measure fell about 6 points, shows that consumers need more encouraging news before their concerns start to dissipate. Despite easing gas prices, Americans continue to be concerned about slow hiring, declining home values, big drops in the stock market and a worsening European economy that they fear will negatively impact the U.S.
The consumer confidence measure has zigzagged so far this year, dropping in January, rising in February and holding nearly steady after that. Analysts were hoping a slight rise in May would give some credence to the idea that the economy is stabilizing.
Meanwhile, recent signs that an economic slowdown is spreading beyond Europe to fast-growing countries like China has raised fears that U.S. companies could pull back on hiring as demand weakens for their products. The housing market also is still weak, and many consumers are seeing their retirement plans shrink as stock prices fall.