Consumer sentiment improved in March, approaching a level not seen in more than a year.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan index rose to a final reading of 76.2, up from a mid-March mark of 74.3 and 75.3 in February. It’s the highest index reading since 77.5 in February 2011.

A survey of analysts by Econoday predicted a more modest rise to a 75 index reading for March.

Positive job and income trends outpaced rising gas prices, according to Richard Curtin, chief economist and director of the survey. The most respondents in four years said their financial situation improved, and a record number reported hearing about job gains.

But a record amount of those surveyed also said they’d lose money if they sold their house to buy another.

“Although consumers are not yet optimistic about future economic prospects, pessimism has recently faded at a rapid pace,” Curtin said in a news release. “Perhaps too rapidly, as expected job and income gains may be unrealistically high for the economy to meet.”

Curtin said data showed personal consumption, adjusted for inflation, will likely grow by 2.3% this year.

The survey of households on financial conditions and expectations is benchmarked in 1966, with 100 marking an exceptionally high reading.

Another measure of consumer confidence, The Conference Board index, released earlier this week dipped slightly for March.

ascoggin@housingwire.com

@AScoggin

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