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U.S. consumer sentiment rebounds in early August - U. Michigan

Aug 18 (Reuters) - U.S. consumer sentiment rebounded in early August from an eight-month low in July, reflecting confidence in the outlook for the economy and in personal finances as the U.S. stock market holds near record highs, a key survey showed on Friday.

The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rose to 97.6 in the first half of August from a final reading of 93.4 the month before. The result exceeded expectations for a reading of 94, according to a Reuters poll.

Whether that optimism holds in the weeks ahead, however, is a major question following recent events of violent protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, said Richard Curtin, chief economist for the Surveys of Consumers. Too few interviews were conducted following the protests, in which one woman died, to assess how much the events might weaken sentiment.

Curtin said the backlash over Charlottesville and U.S. President Donald Trump's response could weigh on subsequent survey readings.

"The fallout is likely to reverse the improvement in economic expectations recorded across all political affiliations in early August," Curtin said. "Moreover, the Charlottesville aftermath is more likely to weaken the economic expectations of Republicans, since prospects for Trump's economic policy agenda have diminished."

(Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)