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Consumer confidence plunges, expectations dive

Consumer confidence plunges, expectations dive (by Ruth Mantell)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Consumer confidence plunged in August as expectations dived, with worsening views on future business conditions, jobs and income, the Conference Board reported Tuesday. The nonprofit organization said its consumer-confidence index fell to 44.5 in August - the lowest level since April 2009 -- from a slightly downwardly revised 59.2 in July. "A contributing factor may have been the debt ceiling discussions since the decline in confidence was well underway before the S&P downgrade," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's consumer research center, in a statement. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected an August reading of 51.9. Generally when the economy is growing at a good clip, confidence readings are at 90 and above. The expectations barometer tumbled to 51.9 in August - the lowest since April 2009 -- from 74.9 in July, while the present-situation gauge fell to 33.3 from 35.7.