WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer sentiment slipped in March from the previous month, as Americans said they were less likely to buy cars and homes because of slightly higher interest rates.
The University of Michigan says its consumer sentiment index dipped to 80 in March from 81.6 in February. That's still about five points higher than last fall, when sentiment fell during the government shutdown. The index was 82.5 in December.
Economists say that the figures suggest confidence didn't take a big hit during the harsh winter. That could bode well for spending as the weather improves.
And Americans are more optimistic about the economy this year. One out of three respondents said they expect their finances to improve in the year ahead, the highest proportion since the recession ended in June 2009.