By David Harrison
Americans' economic outlook rose strongly in early February, according to a University of Michigan survey released Friday.
The survey's headline index of consumer sentiment increased to 100.9 this month from 99.8 at the end of January. February's reading was close to the postrecession peak of 101.4 set in March 2018. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a reading of 99.5.
The survey's index of consumer expectations, which measures future economic conditions, rose to 92.6, the second-highest mark in this current expansion. But the survey's index of current economic conditions fell slightly to 113.8 from 114.4 at the end of January.
Consumers in the survey expressed positive views about their personal finances and the state of the national economy, said Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist.
Still, Mr. Curtin said the survey revealed possible areas of concern.
"These gains in consumers' economic assessments have also been accompanied by a faint stirring of two powerful sources of uncertainty," he said.
First, consumers could be spooked by the coronavirus in the coming weeks. Second, the presidential election could focus people's attention on changes to taxes and spending programs, he said.
Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the strong stock market could push up the overall index in the short term.
"We wouldn't be at all surprised to see new cycle highs over the next couple of months," he wrote in a note to clients. "But gains will be incremental; sentiment can't rise a lot further from here."
Write to David Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 14, 2020 11:24 ET (16:24 GMT)
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