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The rise in mortgage delinquencies is old news. But the NY Times reports today that even those who can afford their mortgage payments may not be able to afford to keep the lights on:

After struggling with soaring heating costs through the winter, millions of Americans are behind on electric and gas bills, and a record number of families could face energy shut-offs over the next two months, according to state energy officials and utilities around the country.

The escalating costs of heating oil, propane and kerosene, most commonly used in the Northeast, have posed the greatest burdens, officials say, but natural gas and electricity prices have also climbed at a time when low-end incomes are stagnant and prices have also jumped for food and gasoline.

This full-force assault on consumers’ pocketbooks might affect sentiment, ya think?

U.S. consumer confidence fell more than forecast in April to a 26-year low as record fuel prices and rising unemployment threatened to reduce spending.

The Reuters/University of Michigan sentiment index decreased to 62.6, from 69.5 the previous month. The measure was down from a preliminary estimate of 63.2 issued on April 11.

Consumers are growing increasingly anxious because the economy has lost almost a quarter million jobs so far this year, gasoline is up 17 percent and property values have fallen. Sales of houses and cars have declined as a result, contributing to a slowdown that may bring an end to the six-year expansion.

Maybe we can just give up driving, eating, heating our homes, paying our mortgages and earning a living and live off the Fed’s “core inflation.” Yeah, that’s the ticket…

Cutoffs and Pleas for Aid Rise With Heat Costs
Erik Eckholm
The New York Times

U.S. Economy: Sentiment Weakens More Than Anticipated
Bob Willis

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