The latest index of consumer spending shows the economy is in the toilet. The Deloitte Research “Leading Index of Consumer Spending” reports that it has reached its lowest level since 2001. The “Index” attempts to track consumer cash flow as an indicator of future consumer spending. The “Index,” comprising four components: tax burden, initial unemployment claims, real wages and real home prices, fell to 1.3%, from a revised gain of 1.51% a month ago. The tax burden is expected to continue to fall with slowing income growth. This remains the only positive factor supporting consumer spending in the months ahead. Unemployment claims increased 16.1% in March, compared with last year. Real wage growth was negative. The decrease was marginally lower compared to the previous month. This comes at a time when personal income increased 4.4% in the first quarter of 2008 compared to a year ago. Rising food and energy prices continue to be a concern for consumer spending. The fall in house prices intensified further with house prices falling nearly 12% compared with a year ago. The home market shows no sign of bottoming out with residential spending falling 26.7% in the first quarter of 2008. vs. the first quarter of 2007.