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March consumer sentiment in like a lamb
WASHINGTON (3/17/14)--Despite expectations that the economy will warm with the weather in the coming months, consumer sentiment continues to hibernate, based on the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index.

Consumer confidence fell 1.7 points in March to 79.9%--a four-month low. Economists had forecast a small jump up for the month to 82 (Bloomberg March 14).

Analysts pin the lack in confidence largely on "unseasonably harsh winter weather, which kept both workers and consumers stuck at home" (Economy.com March 14).

Many still expect the economy to turn around once the winter weather recedes.

"Consumer sentiment should find its way higher in 2014 as job and income growth reaccelerates," wrote Kyle Hillman, Moody's associate economist. "Beyond the labor market, Congress passed a federal budget and suspended the debt ceiling...two potential obstacles for brinkmanship in Washington to damage sentiment. Moreover, rising house prices will help consumers feel wealthier, another reason we believe confidence will climb this year."

The economic conditions index, meanwhile, gained 0.7 points, up to 96.1%, while the economic outlook index stumbled, dropping to 69.4% from 72.7%.

Bloomberg also reported:
  • The Labor Department's producer price index fell 0.1% in February after a 0.2% increase the previous month.
     
  • The Michigan sentiment survey's index of expectations for conditions six months out fell more than three percentage points to 69.4%, the lowest level since November.
     
  • The current conditions gauge, measuring how Americans feel about their personal finances, climbed to 96.1% in March from 95.4%.


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