Blunt words from The Conference Board in its just-released report on how consumers are feeling:
"The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had improved slightly in July, plummeted in August."
The widely watched index now stands at 44.5, its lowest point in more than two years, vs. 59.2 in July. In good times, the index often stays well above 100.
Lynn Franco, the private business research organization's Consumer Research Center director, says in a statement that the index "deteriorated sharply ... as consumers grew significantly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook. ... A contributing factor may have been the debt ceiling discussions since the decline in confidence was well underway before the S&P downgrade."
Since consumers buy about 70 percent of all goods and services, their mood is closely watched for signs of how strong — or weak — demand will be in coming months.
The stock market isn't doing well at this moment: the Dow Jones industrial average is down about 250 points, or 2.25 percent.