Consumer sentiment hits 91 in March vs 90.5 expected

A shopper counts money at a checkout in a Best Buy store in Chesapeake, Virginia.
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Consumer sentiment plodded along in March, a new survey showed Friday.

The Index of Consumer Sentiment hit 91 in March, the University of Michigan said. Economists expected consumer sentiment to hit 90.5 in March's final reading, down from 91.7 in February.

The steady performance of consumer sentiment has been a pattern over the past nine months, according to the survey.

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"This stability reflected more positive personal finances being offset by less favorable prospects for the economy," said Richard Curtin, the chief economist of the survey. "Indeed, consumers were more optimistic about their inflation-adjusted income expectations than any time since 2007."

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

Attitudes toward the current economic conditions slid slightly in March, hitting 105.6, down from 106.8 in February. Future expectations also edged lower at 81.5 in March, down from 81.9.

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The report came out after a separate better-than-expected March jobs report.

"Consumers anticipated that the slower pace of economic growth will more than likely put an end to further declines in the unemployment rate," Curtin said in a statement. "What was surprising was that the expectations of higher gas prices and higher unemployment have not caused an increase in uncertainty about personal financial prospects."