Consumer Sentiment Hits 9-Year Low But Beats Forecasts

A barrage of worries depressed U.S. consumer sentiment to its lowest level in nine years in February, including the imminent threat of war, fear of terror attacks and high unemployment, a report showed Friday.

Frazzled nerves helped drive the University of Michigan's final consumer sentiment index to 79.9 this month, its lowest reading since September 1993, from 82.4 in January, market sources told Reuters. Still, the final reading was a little better than a mid-month reading of 79.2 and beat economists' consensus forecast of 78.9.

Analysts are watching indexes of consumer confidence for clues on whether consumersituation, fell to 95.4 in February from 97.2 in January. It was 95.3 at mid-month. The expectations index, which measures attitudes about the 12 months ahead, sank to 69.9 from 72.8, but was higher than the 68.8 registered in its preliminary February reading.

The University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey is based on telephone interviews with roughly 500 Americans across the country on personal finances and business and buying conditions.