Consumers Glum as Black Friday Approaches

The mood among consumers turned gloomy in November as gasoline prices soared and the housing-market downturn threatened to ensnare more Americans, a report showed on Wednesday.

The Reuters/University of Michigan consumer-confidence reading for November was 76.1, down from 80.9 in October. Apart from the short-lived dip in sentiment that followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was the weakest since 1992.

A drop in weekly mortgage applications, signs of stress in the labor market and crude oil prices on the cusp of $100 per barrel threw up red flags on the eve of the critical holiday-spending rush.

Meanwhile, a composite index of ten leading economic indicators fell by a larger-than-expected 0.5% in October, the Conference Board said on Wednesday.

"Consumers worry about wages not keeping up with price pressures," said Ken Goldstein, labor economist at the privately owned group. "Where the economy is headed in the early months of 2008 is heavily dependent on perceptions about price."

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