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Consumer Mood Dims More Than Expected In February

U.S. consumer sentiment fell further than previously estimated in February, hitting a five-month low as concerns over incomes and jobs in a slowing economy weighed on confidence, a survey showed on Friday.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said the final February reading of its consumer sentiment index slid to 91.3 from 96.9 at the end of January, which was the highest reading on the index in two years.

February's result came in below the median forecast of 93.5 in a Reuters poll of economists and was the lowest reading on the index since 85.4 in September 2006.

"This suggests that consumers are feeling less optimistic about the current economy and future prospects, which is different from what the Conference Board consumer confidence index showed," said Gary Thayer, chief economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons. Thayer said the reading could reflect some negative impact from the cold winter weather.

"Although interviewing extended to Wednesday, too few interviews were conducted following the stock market decline to have an impact on February's data," a statement accompanying the data said of this week's global equities turbulence.

The survey's gauge of current economic conditions fell to 106.7 in February from 111.3 in January, while its final measure on consumer expectations slipped to 81.5 from 87.6.

The survey's one-year inflation index held steady at 3.0% in February, but its five-year inflation index slipped to 2.9% from 3.0%.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, a monthly series of data on U.S. consumer sentiment, are produced by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. From January 2007, Reuters has exclusive rights to distribute the data.