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Belgian Consumer Confidence Drops Most Since Fortis Collapse

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Belgian consumer confidence plunged in November by the most since the collapse of Fortis in 2008 as households became more pessimistic about the economic outlook amid the sovereign-debt crisis.

The consumer sentiment index for Belgium, the euro area’s sixth-largest economy, dropped to minus 14 from minus 7 in October, the Brussels-based National Bank of Belgium said today in an e-mailed statement. That’s the sharpest decline since October 2008, when Fortis, once Belgium’s biggest bank and insurer, was broken up after succumbing to the global financial turmoil in the wake of the U.S. subprime-mortgage collapse.

Renewed market turbulence caused by the euro-area debt crisis and worsening economic forecasts spurred this month’s plummet in confidence among Belgian households, the central bank said.

“Consumers have been taking an increasingly gloomy view of macroeconomic prospects in particular,” the central bank said. “Not only do they see the general economic situation getting worse over the next 12 months, but also their fears of a rise in unemployment have grown much stronger.”

A sub-index on households’ assessments of the economy in the coming year dropped to minus 20, the lowest in two and a half years. A gauge of unemployment expectations rose to 36, the highest since June 2010. That’s the lowest since February 2010.

Fortis was forced to sell most of its businesses over three days in early October 2008 after running out of short-term funding and seeing its share price plummet. Its Dutch bank and insurance units were nationalized and BNP Paribas SA bought 75 percent of the Belgian bank following a government takeover.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jones Hayden in Brussels at jhayden1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at cstirling1@bloomberg.net

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