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US consumer sentiment continues to weaken in December

Consumer confidence continued to weaken in December but only slightly, as the figure fell just below the average for the year — which is the highest since 2000, the final results of a University of Michigan survey showed.

The consumer sentiment index declined 2.6% to 95.9 this month from 98.5 in November and fell 2.3% from the same prior-year period. It was also down 0.9% from a December preliminary result. The average for 2017 is 96.8.

The survey showed that most of the decline in December was among lower income households.

The measure of current economic conditions inched up 0.3% on a monthly basis to 113.8 in December. Uncertainty about future economic prospects continues to increase, reflecting 5.2% drop in consumer expectations to 84.3 in December.

About 29% of the respondents mentioned the tax reform bill just signed into law by President Donald Trump, the survey said, with perceptions of its effect on economic prospects divided almost equally between positive and negative.

Richard Curtin, the survey's chief economist, said most consumers will know more about the revised tax code when the new paycheck withholding amounts take effect in early 2018. "While the mostly small gains in take-home pay may not spark an uptick in optimism, those gains would act to dampen any renewed pessimism," he added.

Curtin said the figures signal that real personal consumption expenditures will expand by 2.6% in 2018.