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U.S. consumer sentiment edges lower in March

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[March 15, 2014]  By David Gaffen

NEW YORK (Reuters)  Consumer sentiment dipped modestly in early March, entirely due to reduced expectations for the future, a survey said on Friday.

The preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan overall index of consumer sentiment fell to 79.9 in March, down from the 81.6 final reading in February. That was below analyst expectations for a reading of 82 and the lowest level for that index since November.

The index for consumer expectations for future growth dipped to 69.4 in March from 72.7, also hitting its lowest level since November, the U-Mich survey said.

By contrast, the assessment of current economic conditions brightened a bit, rising to 96.1 from 95.4 in February, with a slight improvement in current personal finances.

"Overall, consumers continued to demonstrate their resilience in the face of a long and harsh winter, and have not recognized any implications for the domestic economy from the Russian incursion into Ukraine," survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.

Consumers' outlook on the future contained some contradictions, however. Those polled expected the highest rate of annual income gains since November 2008 while nearly half those polled expected their living standards to fall in the coming year.

In addition, consumers thought the pace of gains in their home's value would slow in the coming year, even though the smallest percentage of homeowners reported losses in the value of their home since the beginning of 2007.

(Reporting by David Gaffen; editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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