Flagging confidence intensifies economic fears

ANNE D'INNOCENZIO

AP Retail Writer

NEW YORK - Americans' confidence in the economy has suffered a sudden relapse, dimming hopes that they will start spending - and spurring job growth - any time soon.

The Consumer Confidence Index figures released Tuesday were much worse than analysts had expected and showed that Americans are morose about the job market and their economic prospects. That bodes ill for the sort of uptick in consumer spending that normally powers economic recovery, and could raise pressure on the Obama administration and Congress to create jobs themselves.

The index fell almost 11 points to 46 in February, down from a revised 56.5 in January and the lowest level since a 40.8 reading in April 2009. It erased three consecutive months of improvement, according to the Conference Board, the research group that releases the monthly index.

Analysts