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US consumer sentiment falls in early March as inflation worries mount By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man shops at the Eastern Market in Washington, US, February 11, 2022. REUTERS / Brendan McDermid

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US consumer sentiment fell more than expected in early March as gasoline prices surged to a record high in the aftermath of Russia’s war against Ukraine, a survey showed on Friday.

The University of Michigan said its preliminary consumer sentiment index dropped to 59.7 in the first half of this month from a final reading of 62.8 in February.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast the index falling to 61.4. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, prices jumped more than 30%, with global benchmark hitting a 2008 high at $ 139 a barrel, before retreating to trade around $ 110 a barrel on Friday.

US gasoline prices are averaging a record $ 4,331 per gallon compared to $ 3.48 a month ago, AAA data showed.

Further increases are likely after President Joe Biden on Tuesday banned imports of Russian oil into the United States, as part of a wide ranging of tough sanctions against Moscow.

The University of Michigan survey’s gauge of current economic conditions slipped to a reading of 67.8 from 68.2 in February. Its measure of consumer expectations declined to 54.4 from 59.4 in February.

The survey’s one-year inflation expectations jumped to 5.4%, the highest since 1981, from 4.9% in February. Its five-year inflation was steady at 3.0%.

The government reported on Thursday that consumer prices recorded their largest annual increase in 40 years in February.

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