Consumer sentiment hits 90 in March vs. 92.2 estimate

A shopper carries a Kate Spade bag outside a store in New York.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A shopper carries a Kate Spade bag outside a store in New York.

Consumers were feeling less optimistic than expected in March as drivers eye gas prices, an early survey indicates.

The Index of Consumer sentiment hit 90 in March, the University of Michigan said Friday in a preliminary reading. Analysts expected the sentiment index to hit 92.2, according to Thomson Reuters consensus estimates, up from February's final reading of 91.7.

"Consumer confidence eased in early March due to increased concerns about prospects for the economy as well as the expectation that gas prices would inch upward during the year ahead," said Richard Curtin, chief economist of the survey.

A closely-followed barometer of economic health, the survey measures consumers' attitudes toward current economic conditions and future expectations.

Consumers' assessment of current economic conditions also dipped from February, hitting 105.6, down from 106.8. The measure of future expectations fell to 80 from 81.9 in February.

"While consumers do not anticipate a recession, they no longer expect the economy to outperform the 2.4 percent rate of economic growth recorded in the past two years," Curtin said in a statement. "The most important element supporting consumers' optimism is their conviction that the slower pace of economic growth will not have an appreciable impact on maintaining the jobless rate at about its current low level."

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