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Poll: NYS consumer confidence drops 8.8%

Consumer confidence in New York State fell nearly 9 percent last month, a trend that is contrary to a national tendency toward greater optimism about the economy, a poll shows.

"New Yorkers once again feel this month that the economy is conspiring against them, the Siena College Research Institute's Doug Lonnstrom, a professor of statistics and finance, said in survey results released Wednesday. "Confidence eroded in February among every demographic group."

Siena polled a random sample of 842 adult New Yorkers in February.

The reasons for the exceptional pessimism in New York include heightened reactions to increased gas and food costs, the Sienna poll said.

The pessimism here is nothing new, though -- for 30 Siena surveys in a row, going back to 1999, New Yorkers' optimism has never exceeded -- or even equaled -- that of the nation overall.

In this most recent poll, the confidence of U.S. consumers in general rose 3.3 points to 77.5 percent, compared to New York State's drop of 8.8 points to 67.7 percent.

Siena collected the New York data, while the University of Michigan collected the national data.

Michigan found that buying plans were up, nationally, for computers, 0.6 points to 15 percent; and major home improvements, 1 point to 16.6 percent. Buying plans were down for cars and trucks by 1 point to 11.4 percent; and for homes, 0.5 points to 4 percent; furniture remained unchanged at 22.7 percent. Siena didn't collect similar buying numbers from New Yorkers.

Along with increased gas and food prices, New Yorkers were uneasy about government budget cutbacks, residents told pollsters. "Unfortunately, as we warned a month ago, Mideast turmoil as well as U.S. budget battles punctured the confidence balloon New Yorkers floated in January," Lonnstrom said.

Concern over the cost of gasoline rose for the fifth month in a row, and gas prices rose sharply as February ended, the poll found.

"Now with food prices set to escalate, the percentage of New Yorkers feeling pinched by both the pump and the checkout line -- already flirting with 50 percent for the first time since 2008 -- is sure to move even higher," Lonnstrom said.

Nearly two-thirds of New Yorkers said their finances are being strained by the cost of groceries. Nearly half said both gasoline and food prices are having either "a somewhat or very serious impact on their finances."

Siena said no margin of error is applicable to its statistically derived index numbers.

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