Consumer sentiment steady in March

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumer sentiment ended unchanged in March from February, a survey released on Friday showed, while the reading slightly beat expectations.

High unemployment and tougher credit standards remain worries hanging over the consumer, according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers.

The final March reading for the surveys’ overall index on consumer sentiment was 73.6, the same as February’s, but slightly above the 73 forecast by analysts polled by Reuters.

“Following substantial gains from the recession lows of more than a year ago, sentiment has languished at those improved levels during the past six months, moving sidewards with only small variations,” Richard Curtin, director of the surveys, said in a statement.

However, the survey’s index of current economic conditions was at the highest since March 2008.

It rose to 82.4 from February’s 81.8. That was also above analysts’ forecast for 81.5.

The survey’s barometer of consumer expectations weakened to 67.9 at the end of March from 68.4 in late February. It was slightly above the 67.6 forecast by analysts.

Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama