U.S. consumer sentiment rose in March to the highest level in more than a year as sustained job gains and increased consumer spending offset rising gasoline prices, according to data released Friday by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan.
The consumer sentiment index rose to 76.2 in March from 75.3 in February. It was the highest level recorded since February 2011 and beat expectations from economists surveyed by Bloomberg, who had forecast a reading of 74.5.
The increase came despite drivers paying more than $4 per gallon for gas in some parts of the country, which may cut into discretionary spending. High prices also put pressure on hiring by businesses and public budgets.
Consumer confidence edged upward as more favorable income and job trends offset rising gas prices, said Richard Curtin, survey director.
The survey's barometer of current economic conditions rose to 86.0 in March from 83.0 in February. The five-to-10-year inflation forecast was 3.0 percent, up from 2.9 percent in February.
Not all of the survey's data was positive. The index of consumer expectations fell to 69.8 in March from 70.3 in February and its one-year inflation expectation was 3.9 percent at the end of March, down from 3.3 percent in February.
Meantime, the Commerce Department said Friday personal spending rose 0.8 percent in February, the sharpest increase in seven months.
The Commerce Department also said consumer confidence rose to the highest level in a year, and the Labor Department reported weekly unemployment claims dropped to 359,000, the lowest level since April 2008.