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US consumer sentiment holds steady in early January

U.S. consumer sentiment was broadly stable month over month in January, with households welcoming 2020 with more optimism than in the same month in 2019, preliminary results from the monthly University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers showed.

The consumer sentiment index came in at 99.1 in January, "virtually unchanged" from 99.3 in December 2019, according to Surveys of Consumers Chief Economist Richard Curtin. The consensus estimate of economists polled by Econoday was for the index to stay flat at 99.3.

Despite the 0.2 index-point dip, the January 2020 reading was still 8.7% higher year over year; 2019 started with a lower index reading of 90.7.

The current economic conditions index likewise only marginally improved to 115.8 from 115.5 in January, which was 6.4% higher year over year. The consumer expectations index dipped slightly to 88.3 from 88.9, but was 10.5% higher than its year-ago level.

Curtin said consumer spending has fueled the current period of economic expansion, one of the longest periods of growth the U.S. economy has seen since the mid-1950s. "Consumers will continue to sustain the expansion due to their favorable judgments about their current and prospective financial situation," he said.

Despite the widely covered impeachment process of President Donald Trump, only 1% of survey respondents cited the issue in their responses to questions, according to Curtin.