U.S. consumer sentiment dropped in October, falling short of economists' expectations for only a slight decline, a report by the University of Michigan (search) showed Friday.

The University of Michigan's final October index of consumer sentiment (search) fell to 74.2 from September's final reading of 76.9 and from a preliminary reading of 75.4 in early October, according to sources who saw the subscription-only report.

A Reuters poll had shown Wall Street economists were projecting a slight fall to 76.4.

The survey's expectations component nudged lower to 63.2 from 63.3 in late September and 62.4 in early October.

The index of current conditions fell sharply to 91.2 from 98.1 in September and 95.7 in the early part of this month.

Confidence measures are often used as a gauge of future spending patterns. Consumer spending (search) makes up roughly two-thirds of overall U.S. economic activity, and is seen as an indication of strength or weakness in economic growth.