Consumer sentiment falls as gas prices rise

Despite continued steps by consumers to pay off existing credit card and mortgage debt and an overall improvement in unemployment numbers, consumer sentiment fell in January.

A recent survey by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan indicates rising gas prices were the main reason that many consumers were less optimistic about the economy during the month.

In their preliminary January survey, the two researchers found that consumers sentiment dropped nearly 0.2 points from December, dropping to 72.7 for the month. In addition, the numbers also fell relative to many economists’ expectations, as many believed sentiment would rise due to the improved employment market and the passage of temporary tax breaks.

“The stronger performance of the economy was expected to be reflected in the near term by more favorable expected changes in employment,” Richard Curtin, director of surveys of consumers from Thomson Reuters and University of Michigan.

In January, gas prices topped $3 a gallon across the U.S., leading many to spend more with their credit cards during the month.