US Consumer Sentiment Brightens In March

By MARTIN CRUTSINGER

WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ A survey shows Americans' view of the economy improved at the end of the month, as lower unemployment and healthy job gains are making tax increases less of a burden.

The University of Michigan final consumer sentiment index rose to 78.6 in March. That's up from a preliminary reading of 71.8 and February's 77.8 reading. A year ago, the index stood at 76.2

Cooper Howes, an economist at Barclays, said the increase suggests consumers are not deterred by higher Social Security taxes, which have lowered take-home pay for most Americans. Helping offset the tax increase is a better job market. Employers have added an average of more than 200,000 jobs a month since November.

A separate report Friday showed consumers increased spending in February after their income jumped.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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