Univ. of Michigan: Consumer Sentiment Eases

U.S. consumers were not as upbeat in March as weakness in the stock market dragged on their views of both present and future economic conditions, a report said on Friday.

The University of Michigan (search) said its final measure of consumer confidence (search) fell to 92.6 in March from 94.1 in February, according to market sources who saw the subscription-only report.

The University had said the measure slipped to 92.9 in early March. Analysts had forecast the final March reading at 92.7.

"The stock market had a down month in March so that's a factor," said Richard DeKaser, chief economist at National City Corp. (search) in Cleveland, adding "higher energy costs and weaker stocks would be keeping sentiments subdued."

"But this is not a pessimistic consumer economy -- it's still guardedly optimistic," DeKaser said.

The survey's expectations component eased to 82.8 from 84.4 in February, while sentiment on current conditions fell to 108.0 from 109.2.

Consumer spending makes up about two-thirds of overall U.S. economic activity, and reduced confidence is seen as a precursor to slower growth.

However, in recent years the correlation between confidence and retail sales has weakened, with consumers buying new cars and homes in earnest even as they indicate to surveys that economic conditions are declining.