The preliminary reading of the Thomson Reuters/University of
Michigan overall index of consumer sentiment stood at 81.2,
unchanged from the final reading in January. Analysts polled by
Reuters expected a February reading of 80.6.
The survey's barometer of current economic conditions slipped to
94.0 from 96.8 in January, below economists' forecast of 95.9. But
the consumer expectations gauge rose to a six-month high of 73.0
from 71.2, comfortably beating a 71.6 forecast.
"The good news is that confidence proved resilient to recent
government reports of weak growth in income and employment," survey
director Richard Curtin wrote in a statement. "The not-so-good news
is that the full impact on household budgets from the harsh winter
has yet to be registered."
Curtin said the arrival of higher-than-usual heating bills in the
months ahead could squeeze consumer budgets further, "especially
among lower income households."
Economists suspect extreme cold and heavy snowfall in the Midwestern
and eastern United States this winter have suppressed hiring and
consumer spending, making it harder to gauge the underlying strength
of the economy.
[to top of second column]
The survey's one-year inflation expectation rose to 3.3 percent, a
five-month high, compared to 3.1 percent in January. The
five-to-10-year inflation outlook held steady at 2.9 percent.
(Reporting by Steven C. Johnson; editing
by Meredith Mazzilli)
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