Consumer sentiment index improves in April

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The University of Michigan said today that its preliminary Consumer Sentiment Index for April edged higher, mainly because of improved views of current economic conditions.

The index stands at 98.0, up from 96.9 at the end of March. The survey’s Economic Conditions Index rose to 115.2 from 113.2 at the end of March.

Richard Curtin, chief economist of the university’s Surveys of Consumers, said the Economic Conditions Index is at its highest level since 2000 and has nearly reached its all-time peak of 121.1, which was set in 1999.

“While partisanship had no impact on the Current Conditions Index (Democrats and Republicans differed by just 0.4 points), the data suggest the beginning of a convergence on the Expectations Index, with the figure for Democrats rising 7 percent and falling for Republicans by 7 percent, although the gap still remained an astonishing 50.5 index points,” Curtin said in a statement that accompanied the results. “Much more progress on shrinking the partisan gap is needed to bring economic expectations in line with reality.”

“A slow pace of convergence will make it more difficult to disentangle political fervor from what appears to be a growing sense among consumers that the economy will experience fundamental changes in the years ahead,” Curtin added. “It can be anticipated that optimism will commingle with uncertainty, causing uneven spending patterns across months.”

Bloomberg reported that 52 percent of the survey respondents said their finances had recently improved — the highest share since 2000.

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