Consumer Confidence Drops in April on Inflation, Job Worries

NEW YORK - Soaring gas prices and weaker job prospects made Americans gloomier about the economy in April, sending a widely watched measure of consumer sentiment even lower, a private research group said Tuesday.

The New York-based Conference Board said that its Consumer Confidence Index, which had plummeted in March, fell again to 62.3 in April, down from the revised 65.9 last month and the 76.4 level in February. While the reading was a little better than the 61.0 expected by analysts, the index remains at its weakest point since March 2003, when it registered 61.4, ahead of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The Present Situation Index, which measures shoppers' current assessment of economic conditions, dropped to 80.7 in April from 90.6 in March. The Expectations Index, which measures the outlook over the next six months, was virtually unchanged at a depressed 50.1, compared to 49.4 in March.

The downbeat news on confidence came as the widely watched Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index showed that housing prices dropped in February at the fastest rate ever, showing that the housing slump is gaining momentum and showing no signs of letting up.

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