Consumer confidence among Floridians fell a third consecutive month with many people expressing gloom about where their personal finances are headed, according to a University of Florida survey released Tuesday.
Soaring gas prices, international unrest, the debate over the federal budget and a struggling economy all contributed to the index falling to a relatively weak 68 in April, UF researchers said. In March, the index was 72.
Four of the five components that make up the index fell. The biggest drop was in consumers' expectations of their personal financial situation a year from now. This index fell 11 points to 69, a record low. That was the largest single-month decline in that component since July 1990, when a recession loomed.
Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said seniors who are concerned about how deficit reduction plans will affect their income weren't the only reason for the drop.
"A further examination of the data shows that the component declined across all categories and dropped 17 points among respondents under age 60," McCarty said. "It appears that the public is beginning to understand that budget cuts at the state level and deficit reduction at the national level will likely affect everyone in the U.S., young and old, rich and poor."
The index, based on a monthly telephone survey, is benchmarked to 1966. That means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year.
In contrast to Florida's dip, U.S. consumer confidence picked up slightly in April. The Conference Board's new reading of 65.4 released Tuesday was up from an upwardly revised 63.8 in March. In a report, economists with Wachovia said the continued low reading came as little surprise given stubbornly high unemployment and rising gas prices.