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Economic Report: Consumer sentiment index moves higher in March, as recovery from shutdown continues

Bloomberg News/Landov
Shoppers on 5th Avenue in New York City.

The numbers: The preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment index moved higher in March for the second straight month, with the index rising to 97.8 from 93.8 in the prior month.

In January, the index stood at 91.2, which was the worst reading since November 2016. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected a 95 reading.

What happened: The gain in early March was due to households with incomes in the bottom two-thirds of the distribution, said Richard Curtin, the surveys of consumers chief economist. These householders felt better about their personal finances than more wealthy households.

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