Consumer sentiment falls unexpectedly

NEW YORK Fri Oct 16, 2009 10:16am EDT

Shoppers carry bags from the Macy's department store in New York October 8, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Shoppers carry bags from the Macy's department store in New York October 8, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. consumer sentiment fell unexpectedly this month on persistent worries that the "dismal" state of personal finances would not recover quickly from the worst recession in decades, a report showed on Friday.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary index of sentiment for October fell to 69.4, from September's 73.5.

That was below economists' median expectation of a steady reading of 73.5, according to a Reuters poll.

"While consumers still anticipated gains in the general economy and now think that the unemployment rate is close to its cyclical peak, there has been no improvement in consumers' dismal assessments of their personal financial situation," the report said.

"Indeed, personal finances have undergone the longest and deepest decline in the 60-year history of the surveys, and few consumers expect their finances to improve anytime soon."

The report said diverging prospects for the general economy and personal finances would have a negative impact on the pace of the recovery, with consumers eager to increase their savings and pay down debts.

(Reporting by Burton Frierson, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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