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California consumer confidence plunged this month to a near eight-year low as a resurgent pandemic and a pending change in the White House spooked shoppers.

The Conference Board reports its consumer confidence index for California was at 65.1 for December — down from a revised 91.2 a month earlier and down from 119.7 a year ago. The index has not been this low since March 2013.

Soaring coronavirus cases and deaths forced Gov. Gavin Newsom to order a new round of California business lockdowns designed to slow the pandemic’s spread. That will put a chill on on hopes for a quicker economic recovery — and may spoil merchants’ hopes for a strong gift-giving season.

Also, Joe Biden’s win over President Donald Trump raised economic uncertainty with unknown policy changes ahead in a new administration — even in a state that voted heavily in favor of the president-elect.

Now let’s look at two California measures inside the index …

1. Consumers’ view of current conditions tumbled to 59.2, down from 88.5 a month earlier and far below 156.6 a year earlier. This is a six-month low for this yardstick of today’s economic climate.

2. Looking ahead, shoppers’ financial outlook scored 69.1 — down from 93 the previous month and 95.1 a year earlier. This is the lowest level of future hopes since June 2012.

California was not alone.

Nationally, the U.S. consumer confidence index was 88.6 in the month vs. 92.9 a month earlier and down from 128.2 a year ago. U.S. shoppers’ view of current conditions fell in the month and was lower over 12 months. Meanwhile, consumers’ economic hopes nationwide were better compared to the previous month but less optimistic vs. a year earlier.

The Conference Board also tracks seven other big states. For the month, overall confidence rose in three states — Illinois, Ohio and Michigan — but was down in all seven over 12 months.

As for two major purchases, the national view …

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Plans to buy a home within six months? 5.2% this month vs. 7.5% a month earlier and 5.7% a year ago. Five-year average? 6.2%.

Car purchase plans? 9.1% this month vs. 11.1% a month earlier and 13.2% a year ago. Five-year average? 12.4%.

PS: How California’s consumer psyche compares with elsewhere, with a slightly longer-term view — noting the state’s three-month average index results are down 29% in year and 26% over four years …

  • Texas: Down 26% in year; down 20% over four years.
  • New York: Down 27% in year; down 25% over four years.
  • Florida: Down 26% in year; down 7% over four years.
  • Illinois: Down 24% in year; up 2% over four years.
  • Pennsylvania: Down 31% in year; down 18% over four years.
  • Ohio: Down 26% in year; down 15% over four years.
  • Michigan: Down 20% in year; down 10% over four years.
  • Nationally: Down 26% in year; down 15% over four years.

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By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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