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A sale sign is seen at Aritzia at the Eaton Centre in Toronto. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
A sale sign is seen at Aritzia at the Eaton Centre in Toronto. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Consumer confidence hits 2 1/2 year low Add to ...

The Conference Board of Canada says the latest consumer confidence numbers show the index hitting its lowest level since the height of the recession.

The Ottawa think tank said Thursday its Index of Consumer Confidence posted a 6.5-point drop in December, bringing 2011 to a “disappointing” close and signalling further belt-tightening by Canadians is in store.

At 69.9, the index is down 11.1 points from where it was at the end of 2010 — its lowest point in more than two and a half years.

“Consumers continue to report deep concerns about their financial situation,” the board said.

“At a time when the major banks are warning that consumer debt levels have risen to record levels, Canadians say they are losing ground.”

The board uses a 2002 base of 100 in compiling the index, which reflects how Canadians feel about the economy, job creation, future major purchases and their personal finances.

The board said opinion eroded on all four questions, but responses to the major purchases question were particularly gloomy.

In December, just 34.1 per cent of respondents said now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item like a car or an appliance, down 1.9 percentage points from November and the eighth consecutive monthly decline.

More worrisome is that 54 per cent said now is a bad time to make a major purchase, up 3.5 percentage points and more than 10 points higher than a year ago.

“The results reflect the Conference Board of Canada's recent economic forecast, which suggests that consumer spending will remain weak in the coming months.”

Confidence was down across the country, with the biggest drop in Atlantic Canada, wiping out a recent gain after the Halifax Shipyard won a $25-billion shipbuilding contract earlier this fall.

British Columbia registered a third consecutive monthly decline, and confidence also dropped in Ontario and Quebec, the heart of Canada's manufacturing sector.

The Prairie provinces recorded only a small drop and confidence in the resource-rich region remains the highest in the country.

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