UPDATE 2-US consumer sentiment dipped in early March-survey

(Adds quote from director of surveys)

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, March 12 (BestGrowthStock) – U.S. consumer sentiment
declined slightly in early March, with Americans less positive
about the job outlook, a survey released on Friday showed.

The reading, however, stayed close to its six-month
average, and was significantly above the year-ago level,
according to Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys
of Consumers.

The preliminary March reading for the surveys’ overall
index on consumer sentiment was 72.5, down from 73.6 where it
ended in February, and below the 73.6 forecast by analysts
polled by Reuters.

In early March, consumers were expecting no change in the
national rate of unemployment, which stands at 9.7 percent, for
the rest of 2010, and were losing confidence in help from
government economic policies, the survey showed.

“(The sentiment reading) really has shown very little
variation over the past several months, and that’s mostly
because consumers no longer fear unemployment will go up any
more, but they don’t expect it to improve very much in the year
ahead,” Richard Curtin, director of the surveys said in an
interview with Reuters Insider.

The March reading was just below the six-month average of
72 and up strongly from 57.3 in March 2009.

The consumer survey data followed a report from the U.S.
government showing retail sales rose unexpectedly in February,
which analysts viewed as underscoring hopes for a sustainable
economic recovery. For details, see [ID:nN12202974]

The survey’s gauge of current economic conditions fell to
80.8 from February’s final reading of 81.8. That was also down
from analysts’ forecast for 82.0.

The survey’s barometer of consumer expectations weakened to
67.2 at the beginning of March from 68.4 in February. It fell
short of the 68.0 forecast by analysts.

The index of consumers’ 12-month economic outlook fell to
74 from 80 in February.

The survey’s 1-year inflation expectation index rose to 2.8
in early March from 2.7 in February, while the five-to-10-year
inflation measure was steady at 2.7 from the month before.

Stock Market
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)

UPDATE 2-US consumer sentiment dipped in early March-survey