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Consumer sentiment is still falling.


University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index

fell to 87.8 in April from 91.5 in March, according to preliminary figures.

The index, which measures consumers' confidence levels in the economy, has been falling consistently in the past few months -- it was at 107.6 in November 2000. While historically the Michigan survey has been a secondary piece of economic data, the steady decline has been closely watched for its potential impact on the

Federal Reserve's

interest-rate cutting timetable.

The latest U. of Michigan numbers come on the heels of less-than-rosy retails sales numbers for March. Sales fell 0.2% last month. Excluding auto, sales dipped 0.1% compared to February activity.