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Consumer confidence took a sharp drop in October, pushing back hopes of a recovery in 2002. The Conference Board's monthly consumer confidence index, which tallies public opinion on the current economy, dropped 11.5 points to 85.5 points, its lowest level since Feb. 1994.

Expectations for the next six months

May June July August Sept. Oct.

Economy

Better 16.8% 17.1% 17.2% 19.1% 15.7% 18.0%

Worse 13.5% 10.9% 11.2% 10.7% 15.8% 20.3%

Same 69.7% 72.0% 71.6% 70.2% 68.5% 61.7%

Jobs

More 14.1% 15.6% 15.0% 15.7% 12.9% 14.0%

Fewer 19.9% 18.1% 16.4% 17.7% 22.5% 28.9%

Same 66.0% 66.3% 68.6% 66.6% 64.6% 57.1%

Incomes

Higher 24.9% 24.4% 22.1% 23.2% 21.1% 17.7%

Lower 7.6% 7.1% 7.5% 8.3% 9.3% 11.0%

Same 67.5% 68.5% 70.4% 68.5% 69.6% 71.3%

The gloom is taking its toll on appliance sales, but home and auto sales are holding on thanks to low interest rates and incentive programs.

Plans to buy in the next six months

May June July August Sept. Oct.

Auto 9.5% 6.7% 9.4% 8.1% 7.3% 8.5%

Home 3.6% 3.4% 3.8% 3.9% 3.6% 3.4%

Appliances 30.9% 27.7% 31.3% 31.5% 29.4% 26.8%

Source: Conference Board's monthly Consumer Confidence Survey of 5,000 U.S. households by NFO WorldGroup