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U.S. consumer sentiment misses expectations

(Xinhua)

16:36, February 11, 2012

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. consumers were less confident about the economy at the beginning of this month than they were in January, according to the Reuters-University of Michigan consumer-sentiment index released on Friday.

The preliminary reading for February dropped to 72.5 from 75 in January. The index was weaker than what economists had forecast and snapped five consecutive months of gains.

Rising gasoline prices and concern over the extension of payroll tax cuts combined constrained household budgets, some analysts pointed out.

The fresh figure came as a surprise after the biggest employment gain in almost a year last month, which pushed the unemployment rate down to 8.3 percent. Thursday's initial jobless- claims number also hit a near-four-year low. Last month's auto sales climbed to the highest level since the "cash for clunkers" program ended in August 2009.

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