Americans' outlook on the economy and their finances took for turn for the worst in early December due likely to anxiety about higher taxes from the budget stalemate in Washington, a survey released on Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading in the overall index on consumer sentiment plunged to 74.5 in early December, the lowest level since August.

It was far below November's figure of 82.7 and the median forecast of 82.4 among economists polled by Reuters.

ANALYST COMMENTS:

TOM PORCELLI, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, RBC CAPITAL MARKETS, NEW YORK

"It seems that the average household is now paying attention to the fiscal cliff and that is the key takeaway from this report. In recent months it surprisingly held up well even with the fiscal cliff headlines, but with the media picking up on the fiscal cliff even more people are now paying attention to it and the pullback in confidence is a reflection of that."

MARKET REACTION:

STOCKS: U.S. stocks pare gains

BONDS: U.S. bond prices slightly cut losses

(Americas Economics and Markets Desk; +1-646 223-6300)