×

Consumer sentiment in March hits highest level since 2004

  • U.S. consumer sentiment slipped slightly at the end of March, after shooting up in the mid-month report, but still recorded its highest level since 2004.
  • The index dipped slightly lower at the end of March due to uncertainty about the impact of the proposed trade tariffs.
  • Concerns with trade policies offset positive reactions to recent tax reform legislation.
Shoppers at a Walmart in Los Angeles
Jonathan Alcorn | Reuters
Shoppers at a Walmart in Los Angeles

U.S. consumer sentiment slipped slightly at the end of March, after shooting up in the mid-month preliminary report, but still recorded its highest level since 2004.

The University of Michigan's report showed consumer attitudes about the economy inched down to a reading of 101.4 at the end of March. Reuters economists expected the reading to remain at 102, the same as mid-March, when the index shot up from 99.7 at the end of February.

The index dipped slightly lower at the end of March due to uncertainty about the impact of the proposed trade tariffs, according to the report. Concerns over trade policies offset positive reactions to recent tax reform legislation.

Consumers also anticipate interest rates increasing in the foreseeable future, slowing future economic growth.

"While consumers view the current level of interest rates as still relatively low, they understand that interest rate hikes are intended to dampen the future pace of economic growth," the survey's chief economist, Richard Curtin, said in a statement.

"Their reaction will both emphasize borrowing-in-advance of those expected increases as well as heighten their precautionary savings motives."

Saving versus spending will depend on the pace of interest rate hikes compared with income growth, though income growth is likely to dominate at first, according to the report.

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