U.S. consumer sentiment slipped in early February, with high unemployment expected to continue and with most looking for no gain in income or home values in the year ahead, a survey released on Friday showed.
The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary index of sentiment for February was 73.7, down from 74.4 in late January but up from 56.3 a year ago.
The reading fell short of analysts' median expectation of a reading of 75.0, according to a recent Reuters poll.
The survey's gauge of current economic conditions was 84.1 in early February, the highest since March 2008. It was up from 81.1 in late January and above the 81.4 predicted by analysts polled by Reuters.
But the survey's barometer of consumer expectations dipped to 66.9, down from 70.1 in late January and short of the 70.9 forecast by analysts.
Few consumers anticipated any significant declines in the jobless rate any time soon, and the majority expected recurrent economic weaknesses over the next several years, Richard Curtin, director of the surveys, said in a statement.
The cumulative financial strain during the past few years, coupled with the fact that the majority still expect no gains in their incomes, work hours or home values in the year ahead, has meant that consumers have remained extremely cautious spenders, Curtin said.
The index of consumers' 12-month economic outlook fell to 79 from 84 in late January.
The survey's 1-year inflation expectation index eased to 2.7 in early February from 2.8 in late January. The five-to-10-year inflation measure eased to 2.8 from 2.9 late last month.
(Reporting by Chris Reese; Editing by James Dalgleish)