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University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index Slips in March

Wall Street Journal (03/27/15) Jeffrey Sparshott

U.S. consumer optimism declined in March, due to a slight increase in gasoline prices and wintry weather across much of the country, which weighed on lower-income households; in contrast, middle- and upper-income households reported gains in confidence. The University of Michigan’s final March sentiment index topped 93.0, up from the preliminary reading of 91.2 but below the final February reading of 95.4. Economists polled by the Wall Street Journal had forecast a reading of 92.0 for the final March sentiment index. March’s final current conditions index declined to 105.0 from 106.9 at the end of February, and the expectations index decreased to 85.3 from 88.0.

Despite the softer March reading, consumer sentiment largely has been positive. Consumer optimism reached a 10-year high of 95.5 in the first quarter, the survey found. “Such optimism is in line with our expectation for consumer spending to kick the year off with a solid first quarter,” says Derek Lindsey, an analyst at BNP Paribas. “We are looking for services spending to offset recent weakness in retail sales.”