By Gwynn Guilford 

Consumers' views of the economic outlook soured in November as coronavirus cases soared across the country, according to survey data released Tuesday.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of consumer confidence fell to 96.1 this month, from a revised 101.4 in October. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a reading of 98.0.

Americans' dimming view of the economy's prospects in the months ahead drove the index's decline, said Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at the Conference Board.

"Consumers' assessment of present-day conditions held steady, though consumers noted a moderation in business conditions, suggesting growth has slowed in [the fourth quarter]," said Ms. Franco. "Heading into 2021, consumers do not foresee the economy, nor the labor market, gaining strength. In addition, the resurgence of Covid-19 is further increasing uncertainty and exacerbating concerns about the outlook."

Tuesday's report comes amid other mixed data showing the U.S. economic recovery is continuing, but growth in retail sales and employment has slowed. Initial claims for jobless benefits, a proxy for layoffs, rose last week.

Some state and local governments have reinstated restrictions to combat the virus' spread, though most have been more limited than those imposed in the spring.

Data from private firms suggest that consumers have begun pulling back in spending on services that require close contact with others. The volume of seated diners tracked by OpenTable, a restaurant reservation platform, reached its lowest level since mid-August. Google data on people's movements shows trips to retail stores and restaurants are at their lowest levels since June.

The U.S. seven-day moving average of new Covid-19 cases climbed to 172,000 on Monday, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data -- more than 2.5 times the rate at the peak of the summer surge. Nearly 84,000 people were hospitalized with the disease as of Sunday, according to the Covid Tracking Project, surpassing the peaks of previous surges in April and July. Deaths are also climbing, though they are lower than in the early months of the pandemic due to improvements in treatment.

This month's consumer confidence data is based on survey responses collected Nov. 1-13.

Write to Gwynn Guilford at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 24, 2020 10:47 ET (15:47 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.