Economic Report: Consumer sentiment index holds near highs in December

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People shop for clothing items on sale for Black Friday at a branch of JC Penney’s in Montebello, California, on November 23, 2018.

The numbers: The University of Michigan on Friday said its consumer-sentiment index in December was unchanged at 97.5, keeping most of the gains upbeat consumers have registered over the last two years.

Economists polled by MarketWatch expected a 97.3 reading.

What happened: Consumers were a little more optimistic on current conditions but a bit more pessimistic about the future. In the early December survey, consumers did mention hearing much more negative news about future job prospects.

But mostly, the data reflect a strong jobs market, shown in the separate report released Friday with unemployment matching its lowest level since 1969.

The big picture: The University of Michigan said the last time the sentiment index was consistently above 90 was between 1997 and 2000, when it recorded a four-year average of 105.3. Including December’s report, the sentiment index has averaged 97.5 over the last two years.

Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch’s Washington bureau chief. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWgoldstein.

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