Real Estate

Buyer confidence slips as housing market slumps

NEW YORK — Consumer confidence slid in June as Americans began to worry that high gas prices and a slumping housing industry may be undermining the health of the job market.

The New York-based Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index, which is meant to measure how good shoppers feel about the economy and employment, fell to the lowest level in almost a year.

At the same time, the Commerce Department said that new home sales dropped in May for the fourth time in the past five months.

Both pieces of the economic puzzle dropped into a market that already is concerned about inflation, interest rates and economic growth ahead of a two-day meeting of the Federal Reserve that begins today. The Fed is expected to keep interest rates steady at 5.25 percent, but investors are watching for clues about future moves.

The New York-based Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index fell almost 5points to 103.9, down from a revised 108.5 in May, reaching the lowest level since August 2006 when the reading was 100.2. Analysts had expected a reading of 106.

"A perceived softening in present-day business and employment conditions are the major reasons behind this month's pullback in confidence," said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, in a statement. "Looking ahead, consumers remain subdued about short-term economic prospects. All in all, the glass remains half empty and half full."

The Present Situation, which measures how shoppers feel now about economic conditions, fell to 127.9 from 136.1 in May. The Expectations Index, which measures shoppers' outlook for the next six months, edged down 87.9 from 90.1.

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