Consumer sentiment improves in late June

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U.S. consumer sentiment improved in late June, ending the month close to a near six-year high set in May, as optimism among higher-income families rose to its strongest level in six years, a survey released on Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment was 84.1 points, just slightly below a near six-year high of 84.5 in May. The late-June figure was higher than the preliminary reading of 82.7.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the final June reading of 82.8.

"Consumers believe the (economic) recovery has achieved an upward momentum that will not be easily reversed," survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.

He added the recent drop in stock prices and the jump in mortgage rates have not caused a deterioration in consumers' view on the economy.

"To be sure, few high or low income consumers expect the economy to post robust gains or think the unemployment rate will drastically shrink during the year ahead," Curtin said.

The barometer of current economic conditions ended at 93.8 in June, down from 98.0 in May. This was above an early June reading of 92.1 and economists' forecast of 92.8.

The survey's gauge of consumer expectations ended June at its highest level since October at 77.8, up from 75.8 in May. The latest reading was stronger than the preliminary June figure of 76.7. Economists had projected a late-June figure of 77.0.

There was a divergence in outlook between higher-income families and lower-income ones, according to the latest survey.

Higher-income households showed increased optimism about their incomes and wealth, while lower-income ones reported less optimism. Families in the top third income bracket were the most optimistic since the June 2007 survey.

The survey's one-year inflation expectation ended June at 3.0 percent down from 3.1 percent in May and from the 3.2 percent in early this month.

The survey's five-to-10-year inflation outlook ended unchanged at 2.9 percent for a third straight month. It dipped from 3 percent in early June.



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