March consumer sentiment lowest in over a year

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumer sentiment in March fell to its lowest level in more than a year as gasoline and food prices rose, a survey released on Friday showed.

The index was slightly lower than March's preliminary reading, while inflation expectations remained elevated. Even so, the latest consumer survey from Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan said there was no decline in buying plans.

"While the data clearly indicate that the rate of real consumer spending will diminish, the data do not indicate a renewed downturn is now on the horizon," the report said.

The final March reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 67.5, down from 77.5 in February. It was the lowest level since November 2009 and was shy of the median forecast of 68.0 among economists polled by Reuters.

The preliminary March figure was 68.2.

The survey's gauge of consumer expectations saw its fifth largest monthly decline, tumbling to 57.9 from 71.6, its lowest level since March 2009. The barometer of current economic conditions fell to 82.5 from 86.9 in February and was below a forecast of 83.2.

Inflation concerns remained high with the survey's one-year inflation expectation at 4.6 percent, the same as the preliminary figure and up from 3.4 percent in February. The survey's five-to-10-year inflation outlook was at 3.2 percent from 2.9 percent.

(Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)