March 13, 2020 / 2:18 PM / 24 days ago

U.S. consumer sentiment drops in early February, coronavirus blamed

A worker takes stock as consumers empty shelves of food at a Trader Joe's grocery store, gathering supplies as coronavirus fears spread in Encinitas, California, U.S., March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. consumer sentiment fell in early March as households responded to the coronavirus pandemic and steep declines in stock market prices, a survey showed on Friday.

The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment index fell 5.0% to a reading of 95.9. This was however somewhat higher than what economists had expected, with a Reuters poll forecasting sentiment dropping to 95.0 early this month.

The University of Michigan said while the initial response to the coronavirus “has not generated the type of economic panic among consumers that was present in the run-up to the Great Recession,” it noted that “the data suggest that additional declines in confidence are still likely to occur as the spread of the virus continues to accelerate.”

Reporting By Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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