Consumer Confidence Tumbles Again

U.S. consumer confidence fell unexpectedly to its lowest level in four months in August as a weakening job market weighed on consumers and threatened to undermine retail spending, one of the few pockets of strength in a sluggish economy, a Tuesday report said.

The Conference Board, a New York-based private business research group, said its monthly index of consumer confidence fell to 114.3 in August, its lowest since April, from a downwardly-revised 116.3 in July.

``The deteriorating U.S. job market dampened consumer spirits this month,'' said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center, in a written statement. ``The nation's employment and unemployment numbers now bear watching, since continued weakness in the job market could translate into slower consumer spending.''

While above its recent low of 109.2 in February and far above lows struck during the last U.S. recession, the fall was not expected by most Wall Street economists, who had forecast a rise to 117.0.

The Present Situation Index, which measures consumer views of the economy right now, extended a recent downward trend, falling to 145.8 from 151.3 in July. The Expectations Index, which gauges consumers' outlook for the next six months, edged up to 93.3 in August from 92.9.

The report is likely to cement expectations in the market that the Federal Reserve, which has already cut its benchmark interest rate seven times this year, will probably cut rates again in the months ahead to try to ward off a recession.