U.S. consumer mood brightens by most in nearly 8 years - UMich

People shop at a fish store in Chinatown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in New York City, New York, U.S., March 25, 2021. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

(Reuters) - U.S. consumer sentiment surged in March by the most in nearly eight years as government pandemic relief payments began padding bank accounts and better-than-anticipated progress on vaccinations against COVID-19 bolstered their outlooks, a closely watched survey said on Friday.

The University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index rose to a final reading of 84.9 this month from a preliminary level of 83 at mid-month and from February’s 76.8.

The 8.1 point rise was the largest since a matching increase in May 2013, and it brought the index to its highest level since last March, when consumer sentiment began crumbling in the face of the pandemic’s onset.

Consumers’ attitudes about both their current situation and the future improved markedly, but confidence in the future outlook improved by the most in almost a dozen years.

The survey’s expectations index rose to 79.7 in March from 70.7, with the 9-point rise being the largest since April 2009. Views on current conditions rose to 93 from 86.2.

Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama