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Market's Lower As Consumers' Spirits Sag


Stocks withered Friday as a surprising decline in U.S. consumer sentiment clouded the economic picture...

A closely watched report on consumer sentiment set a negative tone early in the session. The University of Michigan's consumer-sentiment index posted a decline for the first time in five months, slipping to 90.9 on a preliminary basis in February from 93.0 in the previous month.

The decline surprised many economists, whose forecasts called for a reading of 93.5, according to a survey by Thomson Global Markets. Moreover, the index of consumer expectations -- considered the most forward-looking figure in the monthly survey -- also slipped in February to 86.8 from 91.3...

Lakshman Achuthan, managing director at the Economic Cycle Research Institute in New York, suggested that the continuing drumbeat of corporate job-cutting may have spooked consumers in recent weeks. "People are generally feeling OK about their jobs, but there are still these lingering headlines about big layoffs," he said. Indeed, reports on Friday indicated that General Motors plans to shed more than 3,000 jobs at two plants in Michigan and New Jersey...
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