Consumer sentiment is still falling.

The

University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Index

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

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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.