Dutch Confidence Drops to Lowest Since Records Began in 1986

Dutch consumer confidence dropped in February to the lowest level since records began in 1986 amid a deepening slump in the euro area’s fifth-largest economy.

An index of household sentiment fell 9 points from January to minus 44, the Netherlands national statistics bureau, known as CBS, said in the Hague on its website today. Its gauge of willingness to buy also declined to the lowest level on record.

“Consumers were far more negative about their financial situation in February 2013 than in the preceding month,” CBS said in a statement.

The Dutch unemployment rate reached 7.5 percent in January as house prices fell almost 10 percent from a year earlier in the biggest decline since CBS started that price index in 1995. The Netherlands economy shrank 0.9 percent last year and economists surveyed by Bloomberg predict a further contraction this year.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has pledged to implement an austerity package worth about 16 billion euros ($21 billion) in the next four years to bring the budget deficit to below 3 percent of gross domestic product, an original criterion for joining the euro. On Feb. 28, Dutch planning agency CPB will disclose its forecasts for the budget deficit for 2013.

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