Consumer sentiment fell in a preliminary reading for February after it reached an 11-month high in January.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index declined to 72.5 from 75 a month earlier. Economists surveyed by Econoday expected a more modest dip to 74.3, with a consensus range of 71 to 79.5.

February's preliminary reading is down from the year-ago level of 77.5, which was the highest reading since the financial crisis in 2008. It's also the first decline since August, when the index fell to 55.8 in the midst of debt ceiling talks in Washington.

A reading of 100 represents exceptionally high consumer sentiment benchmarked in 1966.

The latest consumer sentiment data falls in line with a January decline in consumer confidence, a separate measure from The Conference Board. Both indices rode a wave of positivity in the final months of 2011.

A final February consumer sentiment reading will be released Feb. 24. The twice-monthly index surveys consumers on economic attitudes, employment outlook and financial status.