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Economy Briefs

- - Tuesday, October 25, 2011

CONSUMERS

Confidence at lowest since recession

NEW YORK — Americans say they feel worse about the economy than they have since the depths of the Great Recession.

Consumer confidence fell in October to its lowest since March 2009, a research group said Tuesday, an ominous sign for the economy as families begin to prepare their budgets for holiday shopping season.

The declining mood reflects the big hit that the stock market took in late summer -down almost 20 percent in one month - as well as frustration with an economic recovery that doesn't really feel like one.

The Conference Board, a private research group, said its index of consumer sentiment came in at 39.8, down about six points from September and seven shy of what economists were expecting.

FINANCES

College prices reach another record

It's a kick in the gut even for students and families hardened by bad financial news: Average in-state tuition and fees at four-year public colleges rose another $631 this fall, or 8.3 percent, compared to a year ago.

Nationally, the cost of a full credit load has passed $8,000, an all-time high. Throw in room and board, and the average list price for a state school now runs more than $17,000 a year, according to the twin annual reports on college costs and student aid published Wednesday by the College Board.

Helping drive the national numbers were huge tuition increases at public universities in California, which enrolls 10 percent of public four-year college students and whose 21 percent tuition increase this year was the largest of any state.

But even without California, prices would have increased 7 percent on average nationally - an exceptional burden at a time of high unemployment and stagnant family incomes.

WASHINGTON

With $22M bet, Costco shakes up election

OLYMPIA — In a mostly calm off-year election, Costco Wholesale Corp. has mounted what is now the most expensive initiative campaign in Washington state history.

Seeking to dismantle its home state's liquor distribution system, the company has committed $22 million largely for campaign advertising. The total amounts to 65 cents for every Costco membership household worldwide, or more than $6 for every registered voter in Washington.

Costco was outspent during a similar liquor privatization initiative that failed last year, and company officials say they didn't want to be outspent again.

An opposition group funded largely by alcohol wholesalers has built a campaign account of more than $12 million.

The measure seeks to end the state's control of liquor sales, allowing private businesses to sell alcohol.

STOCKS

Netflix shares tank amid backlash, defections

NEW YORK — Netflix shares plunged Tuesday after the one-time Wall Street favorite revealed a massive departure of subscribers angered by price increases and other questionable changes at the rental service that was created to make entertainment a snap.

Netflix revealed late Monday that it ended September with 23.8 million U.S. subscribers. That's down about 800,000 from June and far worse than anything that the company had hinted at before.

And it may get worse. Of its customer defections, Netflix said it expects more in coming months.

The exodus began after the company raised its prices by as much as 60 percent in July. Its website was flooded by letters from livid customers. Many people also canceled service, especially on the DVD-by-mail side.

From wire dispatches and staff reports