U.S. Consumer Sentiment Soars To Three-Year High

By Agence France-Presse U.S. consumers' spirits soared to the highest level in more than three years in early January, a survey by the University of Michigan showed Jan. 16. A consumer sentiment index, based on the survey, surged to 103.2 points -- the highest since November 2000 -- from 92.6 points in late December, the university said. The leap surprised Wall Street economists, who had forecast a reading of 93.6 points. The financial markets closely watch consumer sentiment because it can affect consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity. American shoppers have proven during the past three years, however, that they can spend even when things look grim. The two key components of the Michigan index improved. An index of people's feelings about current conditions rose to 108.9 from 97.0 in December. An expectations index rose to 99.5 from 89.8. Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2004

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