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Americans’ mood on the economy sinks

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks with workers while visiting CS Wind, the largest wind tower manufacturer in the world, in Pueblo, Colorado, U.S., November 29, 2023. 

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

This report is from today’s CNBC Daily Open, our international markets newsletter. CNBC Daily Open brings investors up to speed on everything they need to know, no matter where they are. Like what you see? You can subscribe here.

What you need to know today 

Hong Kong property stocks rally
Asia markets
were largely down Wednesday, while Hong Kong’s property stocks rallied after the government’s budget revealed measures to lift its ailing real estate sector. The Hang Seng index fell, while the Hang Seng Property index was higher. Overnight, U.S. stocks ended mixed as investors prepared for key inflation data due out later this week. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite closed with small gains, up 0.17% and 0.37%, respectively. The 30-stock Dow fell for a second straight day, off by 0.25%.

China beefs up national security
China is boosting its national security measures by expanding its protections of state secrets. The new rules, to take effect May 1, describe how precautions taken for state secrets should also apply to unclassified information known as “work secrets.” 

Apple kills EV plans
Apple has cancelled its plan to build electric cars, according to Bloomberg. This signals an end to the company’s secretive effort to compete in the EV space against rival Tesla. Reports of Apple’s ambition first surfaced in 2014 after it recruited automotive engineers and other talent from auto companies. 

Warner Bros. Discovery stops merger talks
Warner Bros. Discovery has halted merger talks with Paramount Global, according to people familiar with the matter. SkyDance Media, the film and TV studio run by David Ellison, is still doing due diligence on a potential transaction, the sources said.

[Pro] Alibaba’s compelling appeal
Despite the recent slump in Alibaba’s shares, the Chinese e-commerce giant remains on the radar of fund managers. “Alibaba is our third biggest stock [position] now. Why? The valuation is absolutely compelling,” said Andrew Lapping, Ranmore’s chief investment officer.

The bottom line

Americans’ mood about the economy has soured.

Consumer confidence fell to 106.7 in February, said the Conference Board, down from a revised 110.9 in January. This comes after a three-month streak of rising sentiment.

The index measuring short-term expectations for income, business and the job market fell to 79.8 from 81.5 in January. A reading under 80 often signals an upcoming recession.

While Americans were less worried about food and gas prices, there were rising concerns over jobs and the upcoming presidential elections.

“The decline in consumer confidence in February interrupted a three-month rise, reflecting persistent uncertainty about the US economy,” said Dana Peterson, chief economist at the Conference Board. 

“While overall inflation remained the main preoccupation of consumers, they are now a bit less concerned about food and gas prices, which have eased in recent months. But they are more concerned about the labor market situation and the US political environment.”

The fall in consumer confidence was broad based, affecting most income groups, as well as among people under 35 years old and those aged 55 and over, according to Peterson.

The findings reveal public perception on the economy will prove to be a challenge ahead of high-stakes elections this year despite a robust labor market and a surprisingly resilient economy.

If the downbeat sentiment persists it spells trouble for President Joe Biden. His administration has been trying to tout his economic accomplishments ahead of a likely rematch against Republican nominee Donald Trump in November.

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