NEW YORK – United States consumer sentiment fell less than initially reported in April and was slightly above estimates on upbeat personal-finance expectations and buying conditions.
The University of Michigan’s final April sentiment index dropped to 97.2 from 98.4 in March, topping the preliminary reading of 96.9 as well as the forecast in Bloomberg’s survey. The gauge of current conditions was weaker than previously reported while the expectations index was slightly stronger, the report Friday showed.
The decline in confidence reflected dimmer expectations for the economy for the next 12 months, with sentiment down from March’s strong reading. At the same time, sentiment may pick up in the near future, with the stock market reaching record highs and recent data indicating the economy, consumer spending and the job market aren’t slowing as sharply as feared. Other recent sentiment readings have been mixed. Bloomberg’s monthly economic expectations gauge rose in April, while the Conference Board confidence measure is forecast to rebound following a March drop. The data followed a government report Friday showing economic growth accelerated to a 3.2 percent annualized rate in the first quarter on a major boost from inventories and trade. That was offset by consumer spending, the biggest part of the economy, which rose a slightly-above- forecast 1.2 percent.
“Income gains remained widespread and reports of increases in net household wealth rose among middle and upper income households,” Richard Curtin, director of the University of Michigan consumer survey, said in a statement.
Consumers continued to anticipate muted price gains. Inflation expectations for the year ahead edged up from the preliminary reading to 2.5 percent while the rate seen over the next five to 10 years held at 2.3 percent, matching a half-century low. The measure of personal-finance expectations was the highest since 2004 and unchanged from the preliminary reading. Interviews were conducted March 27 to April 22, while the preliminary survey closed April 10.
Reade Pickert is a reporter for Bloomberg News.