Consumer sentiment hits 97.6 in March, vs. 97 estimate

A customer browses women's jewelry at the Macy's flagship store in New York.
Jin Lee | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A measure of consumers' attitudes "remained quite favorable" in early March, the University of Michigan reported on Friday.

The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index hit 97.6 in March, up from 96.3 in the previous month, the University of Michigan said.

Economists expected the index to hit 97 in March, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

"The Current Economic Conditions component reached its highest level since 2000, largely due to improved personal finances," said Richard Curtin, Surveys of Consumers chief economist.

"While current economic conditions were not affected by partisanship, this was not true for the component about future economic prospects: among Democrats, the Expectations Index at 55.3 signaled that a deep recession was imminent, while among Republicans the Index at 122.4 indicated a new era of robust economic growth was ahead," Curtin said.

The monthly survey of 500 consumers measures attitudes toward topics, such as personal finances, inflation, unemployment, government policies and interest rates.