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U.S. consumer sentiment rose at the beginning of March, a sign that consumers may be feeling more optimistic than they did to start the year.

The University of Michigan on Friday (March 15) said its consumer sentiment index increased to 97.8 after registering 93.8 at the end of February and 91.2 in January, the lowest level since October 2016 . Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected a 95.3 reading.

Measures of consumer sentiment dipped earlier this year as Americans grappled with the partial government shutdown, a patch of market volatility and the threat of a global economic slowdown. Those fears seem to have receded.

This month’s increase was driven by particularly strong sentiment among people in the bottom two-thirds of the income distribution, said Richard Curtin, the survey’s chief economist.

The survey revealed a jump of one percentage point in income expectations among this group — coupled with the lower expected inflation in the next year they indicated — points to consumers anticipating higher real incomes.

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