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Florida consumer confidence slips as holiday buying season arrives

Florida consumer confidence backpedaled in October with more people growing skittish about buying big-ticket items just as the holiday shopping season arrives, according to a survey released Tuesday.

That meshed with a national snapshot also out Tuesday that indicates consumer confidence fell in October to the lowest level since March 2009.

The Conference Board said its index of national consumer sentiment fell 6 points to 39.8. Though well above the worst reading during the recession, it's far below what would be considered healthy.

Florida's confidence index, which is compiled monthly through a phone survey by University of Florida researchers, fell 1 point to 63. That's 4 points above the record low set in June 2008 in the midst of the recession. The index is benchmarked to 1966, meaning a score of 100 represents the same level of confidence as that year.

"Consumer confidence continues to be in the doldrums," said survey director Chris McCarty of UF's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Two of the five indicators in the index rose: More respondents felt that their own personal finances are better than a year ago, and more said they believe the economy will be better a year from now.

But consumers are less certain about where their finances will be a year from now, and fewer think the economy is on track for the long term.

The biggest plunge came in the measurement of whether it's a good time to buy big-ticket items such as autos and appliances. That sunk 4 points to 70, a slippage that doesn't bode well for the emerging holiday season.

"For many retailers (the holiday shopping season) can easily represent 30 to 40 percent of their yearly sales," McCarty said. "With consumer confidence low, most retailers are not expecting a strong holiday season in comparison to 2010, which was much better than 2009."

The National Retail Federation has forecast a modest 2.8 percent increase in general merchandise sales from Thanksgiving through Dec. 31, and said seasonal hiring will be close to last year's 495,000 jobs, short of the 600,000 in pre-recession years.

Florida consumer confidence slips as holiday buying season arrives 10/25/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 8:20pm]
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