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July UMich consumer sentiment plunges to 63.8

July UMich consumer sentiment plunges to 63.8 (by Ruth Mantell)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- A gauge of consumer sentiment plunged to 63.8 in early July, reaching the lowest level since March of 2009, from 71.5 in June, according to media reports of the gauge from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan released Friday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch had expected the barometer to tick down to 71.3. The sentiment reading, which covers how consumers view their personal finances as well as business and buying conditions, averaged about 87 in the year before the start of the most recent recession. A tough employment environment, volatile stocks and energy prices have been weighing down sentiment.