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Oct. 27, 2020, 11:45 a.m. EDT

Consumer confidence slips in October as Americans turn less optimistic about future

Consumer confidence index slips to 100.3 in October from 101.3

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By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch


Getty Images
Consumers wait in line at a Starbucks location in Arizona. Confidence in the economy fell slightly in October, but it could get even worse if coronavirus cases keep rising.

The numbers: Consumer confidence waned in October, reflecting somewhat less optimism about the jobs market and the U.S. economy in the next six months amid another outbreak of coronavirus cases.

The index of consumer confidence dipped to 100.3 this month from a pandemic high of 101.3 in September, the Conference Board said Tuesday. The decline was slightly bigger than Wall Street expected.

The latest survey was largely compiled before the sharp upturn in coronavirus cases this month, suggesting confidence could suffer an even bigger swoon in November.

Confidence is still far below pre-pandemic levels. The index stood at 132.6 before the viral outbreak in February.

See: MarketWatch Coronavirus Recovery Tracker

What happened: An index that gauges how consumers feel about the economy right now rose to 104.6 in October from 98.9 in the prior month

Yet another gauge that assesses how Americans view the next six months—the so-called future expectations index—declined to 98.4 from 102.9 in September.

Fewer consumers now compared to a month ago thought the economy would be better in six months. And slightly more said they think it will get a bit worse.

Read: Record 30% surge in GDP is coming, but it may be too late to help President Trump

Big picture: Consumer confidence has waxed and waned during the pandemic based on the number of coronavirus cases. Infections in the U.S. have risen to new highs in October just like in much of Europe, a disturbing trend that could lead to more restrictions or people avoiding public spaces where crowds tend to gather.

If the outbreak gets even worse, the U.S. economy could suffer another lapse, especially in the absence of more federal aid.

What they are saying? “There is little to suggest that consumers foresee the economy gaining momentum in the final months of 2020, especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise and unemployment still high,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the board.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.13% and S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.24%  slipped in Tuesday trades.

/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
29,910.37
+37.90 +0.13%
Volume: 178.10M
Nov. 27, 2020 2:07p
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
3,638.35
+8.70 +0.24%
Volume: 1.22B
Nov. 27, 2020 2:07p
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Jeffry Bartash is a reporter for MarketWatch in Washington.

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