ABC Consumer Confidence Misses Estimates, Stays Near Record Lows, Divergence With Conference Board Is Now Complete

What a difference two presumably unmanipulated data series show. Earlier, the Conference Board showed that its index had hit the highest since September 2008, based on "improved economic conditions" (god bless them, and here we were thinking that 17.3% unemployment is indicative of just slight deterioration). However, after the close, ABC Consumer Comfort came out, and, lo and behold, demonstrates that another index of so-called consumer confidence in the current "economic improvement" is at an all time low. So seriously, who should we believe anymore? And is it time the Census bureau released an index that keeps track of lies, manipulation and discrepancies between reality and "economic index indicators?"

From the just released ABC Consumer Comfort index, which came in at -48, a whisper away from the all time low of -54 and missing expectations of -45.

To find Barack Obama’s woes in advance of his first State of the Union address, look no further than consumer confidence: A year to the week after hitting its record low in the past generation, it’s barely any better.

The ABC News Consumer Comfort Index stands at -48 on its scale of +100 to -100, essentially flat the past three weeks after a steep start-of-year dive. It’s within sight of its all-time low, -54 this week last year. That compares to a long-term average of -13 in 24 years of weekly polls.

Views of the national economy are the chain around confidence’s ankle; more than nine in 10 Americans continue to say the economy’s in bad shape. The other two components of the index aren’t quite so dire, but hardly good: More than three-quarters rate the buying climate negatively and more than half say the same of their own finances.

Somehow the commentary provided by ABC and its pollers doesn't quite jive with that of the CONference Board. But in this country why should anything surprise us? Everything is just spin, lies and manipulation, set forth with the hopes that yet another unemployed person will throw their money away on a Kindle. And while we are waiting for Apple to provide an iUnemployment iBenefits service which magically doubles every unemployed American's income, ongoing data fudging will only grease the computers that only care about headlines without actually realizing that every headline is as hollow as the coffers of the US Treasury.

Confidence is closely aligned with unemployment, now in double digits for three months, a first since 1982-1983. Housing prices don’t help; the latest Case-Shiller Home Price Index reports home values down by 5.3 percent since last year in 20 of the nation’s largest cities.

INDEX – Forty-seven percent of Americans rate their personal finances positively, down from 51 percent three weeks ago; it’s 10 points below its long-term average and has been below a majority for 76 of the last 79 weeks, a record.

Twenty-three percent call it a good time to spend money, down 7 points since the peak of the holiday shopping season and 14 points worse than average. And only 8 percent rate the national economy positively, 30 points below average and in single digits for nine weeks straight.

TREND – The index has taken a turn for the worse after a brief run-up. It reached -41 Jan. 3, a 16-month high, only to fall back sharply to -47 a week later – a very unusual 6-point one-week slide. This week’s rating of -48 matches its average since 2009.

The CCI has been below -40 for a record 92 consecutive weeks. And this week the long-term average inched down a point, to -13, a number that rarely moves given over 1,250 weeks of data.

GROUPS – The index as usual is higher among better-off Americans, but has been negative across the board for 48 weeks straight, the longest such run in available data since 1990.

And the sad truth continues:

NATIONAL ECONOMY – Eight percent of Americans rate the economy as excellent or good; it was 9 percent last week. The highest was 80 percent Jan. 16, 2000. The worst was 4 percent Feb. 8, 2009.

PERSONAL FINANCES – Forty-seven percent say their own finances are excellent or good; it was 45 percent last week. The best was 70 percent, last reached in January 2000. The worst was 39 percent June 28 and 21, 2009.

BUYING CLIMATE – Twenty-three percent say it’s an excellent or good time to buy things, the same as last week. The best was 57 percent on Jan. 16, 2000. The worst was 18 percent, last reached Oct. 19, 2008.

Of course, don't look for any of these numbers to make CNBC ever.