American consumer sentiment is at its lowest ebb for nearly a decade, according to a closely watched barometer.

The confidence index of the New York-based Conference Board slumped from 78.8 last month to 64.0 in January, well below analysts’ expectations of 76.8. The last time it fell so low was in October 1993.

There were sharp falls in the components measuring assessments of current conditions (75.3 to 61.6) and expectations for the next six months (81.1 to 65.6).

“Lackluster job and financial markets, rising fuel costs and the increasing threat of war and terrorism appear to have taken a toll on consumers,” explained Lynn Franco, director of the Board's Consumer Research Centre.

“This month's confidence readings paint a gloomy picture of current economic conditions, with no apparent rebound on the short-term horizon.”

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff