Consumer sentiment rises to highest level since 2004

  • U.S. consumer sentiment rose more the anticipated in the preliminary March reading.
  • The survey reaches a level not seen since 2004.
  • Optimistic mentions regarding recent tax reform legislation were weighed down, however, by negative views of steel and aluminum, the survey found.
Liz O. Baylen | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

U.S. consumer sentiment rose more than anticipated in the preliminary March reading, reaching a level not seen since 2004.

The University of Michigan's mid-month report on consumer attitudes rose to 102 in March, its highest level since 2004. Reuters economists expected the reading to reach only 99.3 from the previous month's reading of 99.9.

Consumers appeared to be focused on positive economic news — especially noting a favorable economic outlook and confidence regarding personal finances.

Optimistic mentions regarding recent tax reform legislation were weighed down, however, by negative views of steel and aluminum, the survey found. The tariffs were mentioned spontaneously by one in five consumers, according to the report.

"Importantly, near term inflation expectations jumped to their highest level in several years, and interest rates were expected to increase by the largest proportion since 2004," the survey's chief economist, Richard Curtin, said in a statement.

Overall, consumers continue to express confidence about both buying and borrowing in advance due to expected improving trends.

The index measures 500 consumers' attitudes on future economic prospects, in areas such as personal finances, inflation, unemployment, government policies and interest rates.