Preliminary report: U.S. Consumer Sentiment Index declines

New York City A preliminary report released Thursday by Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan showed an unexpected decline in confidence among U.S. consumers.

The preliminary index of consumer sentiment fell to 66.6 from 68.9 in August, below even the most pessimistic forecast by Bloomberg News.

Economists forecast the confidence measure would rise to 70, according to the Bloomberg survey median of 65 economists whose estimates ranged from 68 to 73. The index, which declined this month to the lowest level since August 2009, averaged 89 in the five years leading up to the recession that began in December 2007.

Also revealed in the report, the University of Michigan gauge of consumer expectations for six months from now decreased to 59.1, the lowest since March 2009.

About 67% of those surveyed said they anticipate “bad financial conditions” in the coming year. All of the decrease in the consumer sentiment index was recorded among households with incomes above $75,000. The decline in that group reflected a decrease in sentiment about personal finance, buying plans and prospects for the U.S. economy. Confidence rose among lower-income households, according to the report.

The University of Michigan’s gauge of current conditions, which reflects Americans’ perceptions of their financial situation and whether it is a good time to buy such big-ticket items as cars, rose to 78.4 from 78.3 in the prior month.

The preliminary Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan consumer confidence report reflects about 300 responses, compared with 500 households for the final survey.

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