ECONOMY WATCH….Cripes. Did the Consumer Confidence Index really drop nearly 20 points in a single month? Yes it did.

There was a big drop in new housing sales too. That’s a bad combination:

The report on new home sales showed that the weakness last month was widespread around the country, led by a sharp 22 percent drop in the Northeast, the biggest setback in that area since last December.

Sales fell by 17.9 percent in the West, the biggest decline since last November, while sales were down 10.6 percent in the Midwest, the largest drop in that region since January.

It’s not the apocalypse or anything, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Maybe the plunge in consumer confidence is strictly a Hurricane Katrina phenomenon and will rebound next month. Maybe not. In any case, keep your hand on your wallet.