The consumer confidence index, a measure of Americans’ confidence in the economy as reflected in their spending and saving, is plummeting, according to researchers. The Conference Board, the New York-based independent economic research organization that tracks the official confidence index, reports consumer confidence fell to 38 in October, down from 61.4 in September and significantly below analysts' expectations of 52. That's the lowest level for the index since the Conference Board began tracking consumer sentiment in 1967, and the third-steepest drop. A year ago, the index stood at 95.2. "Consumers are extremely pessimistic," said Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board's Consumer Research Center. "This news does not bode well for retailers who are already bracing for what is shaping up to be a very challenging holiday season." Lower gas prices may help improve consumers' outlook; but with unemployment on the rise, that may not be enough to bolster consumer confidence.