Michael Lipsitz picks out a bag of chips while grocery shopping at the WalMart in Crossville, Tennessee March 21, 2008.  Food prices are soaring, a wealthier Asia  is demanding better food and farmers can?t keep up. In short, the world is in a food crisis that is in danger of boiling over.  REUTERS/Brian Snyder    (UNITED STATES)

Michael Lipsitz picks out a bag of chips while grocery shopping at the WalMart in Crossville, Tennessee March 21, 2008. Food prices are soaring, a wealthier Asia is demanding better food and farmers can?t keep up. In short, the world is in a food ... crisis that is in danger of boiling over. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES) (Reuters)

Consumer Sentiment Dips in March; Inflation View Climbs

Politics Reuters

Consumer sentiment dipped in early March as rising gasoline prices pushed Americans' inflation expectations for the next year higher, a survey released on Friday showed.

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The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment slipped to 74.3 from 75.3 in February, shy of economists' forecasts for a gain to 76.0.

Even so, consumers did not expect the run-up in gasoline prices to last very long and anticipated further gains in employment this year.

"Overall, the data indicate that $4 gasoline has lost its shock value, although the drain on discretionary income will still affect spending, mostly among lower income households," survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement.

"If gasoline prices approach $5 per gallon, however, a widespread and substantial impact is likely."

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The survey's one-year inflation expectation accelerated to its highest level since last May at 4.0 percent from 3.3 percent last month, while the survey's five-to-10-year inflation outlook rose to 3.0 percent from 2.9 percent.

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The barometer of current economic conditions edged up to 84.2 from 83.0, while gauge of consumer expectations fell to 68.0 from 70.3.

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