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Data: Hamilton Place Strategies, CivicScience; Chart: Axios Visuals

The rise in coronavirus cases in certain parts of the U.S. is stunting confidence across the country, a crop of new reports show.

Driving the news: After stalling during the previous two-week period, overall economic sentiment declined for the first time in two months, according to the Economic Sentiment Index, a biweekly survey from data firm CivicScience and Hamilton Place Strategies (HPS).

  • This drop may be the sign of further declines in sentiment to come: over the course of three readings during the 'summer surge' of COVID cases in June and July, economic sentiment dropped 5.1 points," analysts for HPS noted in a release.
  • "Leading the declines this week were drops in confidence in the housing market (down 2.8 points) and confidence in the job market (down 2.0 points)."

Similarly, the U.S. Index of Consumer Sentiment, which tallies a collection of daily surveys from data analytics firm Morning Consult, showed confidence essentially unchanged from the prior week.

The state of play: "It’s time to acknowledge the new reality: Economic growth in October in the United States has ground to a standstill," says John Leer, an economist for Morning Consult.

  • "If the recovery were gaining momentum, a strengthening job market would support consumption growth, but Morning Consult’s data shows persistently weak demand at least for the next month."
  • A plateau of consumer confidence is uneventful in a strong economy, but during a downturn it can signal larger problems, analysts note. Households’ personal finances are already weak, and without additional improvements to the economy, consumption is poised to contract.

The bottom line: The Conference Board's consumer confidence index declined in October after a strong September reading, largely because of flagging expectations about the future.

  • “Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved while expectations declined, driven primarily by a softening in the short-term outlook for jobs," Lynn Franco, the Conference Board's senior director of economic indicators, notes in a statement.
  • "There is little to suggest that consumers foresee the economy gaining momentum in the final months of 2020, especially with COVID-19 cases on the rise and unemployment still high.”

Go deeper

Wall Street pencils in virus variants as latest economic risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wall Street is pinning its bets of an economic rebound this year on mass vaccinations and a virus brought under control, but new coronavirus strains threaten that sunny outlook, a number of firms are warning.

Why it matters: None downgraded growth forecasts because of the variants, but they’re acknowledging there’s a new asterisk to the anticipated economic recovery.

2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

Biden: Fight against Omicron won't include "shutdowns or lockdowns"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden on Monday said that the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic."

Driving the news: Biden said later this week the administration will be releasing a strategy on how "we're going to fight COVID this winter. Not with shutdowns or lockdowns, but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more."