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UMich sentiment rises to 76.2 in March

UMich sentiment rises to 76.2 in March (by Ruth Mantell)

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) - The final reading for consumer sentiment in March rose to 76.2 - the highest in more than a year - from 75.3 in February, according to a gauge released Friday from the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters. A preliminary March reading pegged the level at 74.3. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a final March reading of 75. The sentiment gauge, 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. Economists watch sentiment data to get a feel for the direction of consumer spending. Opposing forces are impacting consumers - while recent employment news has been positive, per-gallon gas prices have gained more than 60 cents since late last year.