Consumer Sentiment Fell in February to a Six-Month Low

A pedestrian wearing a protective mask carries a shopping bag in San Francisco. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News)

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U.S. consumer sentiment fell in February to a six-month low as expectations remained weak even while lawmakers moved closer to approving another round of financial relief.

The University of Michigan’s final sentiment index fell to 76.8 from 79 in January, data released Feb. 26 showed. That was slightly better than the preliminary reading of 76.2 but well below the 101 a year ago, before the pandemic ravaged the economy and job market.

“The worst of the pandemic may be nearing its end, but few consumers anticipate persistent and robust economic growth in the years ahead or that employment conditions will be soon restored,” Richard Curtin, director of the survey, said in the report.

Consumers are less optimistic as millions remain unemployed and virus cases continue to be elevated in many parts of the country. Still, sentiment may improve as more Americans get vaccinated and Congress approves another economic aid package.

The gauge of current conditions fell to 86.2 in February from 86.7 a month earlier. A measure of expectations dropped to 70.7 from 74 in January, according to the Jan. 27-Feb. 22 survey.

Investors and policymakers are watching carefully for signs of inflation. According to the Michigan Index, consumers expect prices to rise 3.3% in the next year, which was the highest since 2014 and matched the preliminary reading.

With assistance from Jordan Yadoo.

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