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Consumer sentiment plummeted significantly this past month, reaching 2008 recession levels, according to the preliminary Reuters/University of Michigan index report for the month of August.

The index score fell to 54.9, down from 63.7 in July.

Analysts forecasted a sentiment index level of 63, with the preliminary reading falling nearly nine points as the financial markets dealt with a confluence of negative factors, including wrangling over the nation's debt ceiling, concerns about the European debt crisis and slow job growth.

The index score is the result of 500 interviews with the households of ordinary Americans.

Econoday analysts consider consumer sentiment readings a significant economic barometer since consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the overall American economy.

Write to: Kerri Panchuk.

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