Consumer confidence improved just slightly in early March, according to the Reuters/University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index released Friday, which "unexpectedly" rose to 56.6 from 56.3 in late February. The index's reading, however, still sits at a near 28-year low, reflecting mounting job losses and a deepening recession. The increase was due to an improved outlook down the road, but a drop in current sentiment on the economy, according to the survey's findings. The index of consumer expectations rose to 53.0 from 50.5, but the index of current economic conditions fell to 62.3 from the 65.5 reported in late February -- marking its third month-over-month decline. The survey put year-ahead inflation expectations at 2.2 percent, higher than the 1.9 percent seen in February, while long-term inflation expectations fell to 2.8 percent, below the 3.1 percent reading seen in February. Confidence in the Obama Administration's economic stewardship of the economy proved to be on the rise. In January, just 7 percent of those surveyed said the government was doing a good job, but as of early March, a significantly larger 23 percent of those surveyed said the government was performing well. Nonetheless, consumers' plans to consume are still being delayed due to the recession. "Uncertainty about future income and job prospects was cited by nearly half of all consumers in early March when they were asked to explain their views about buying furniture, appliances, home electronics and other large household durables," the survey said. Write to Kelly Curran at Disclosure: The author held no relevant investment positions when this story was published. Indirect holdings may exist via mutual fund investments. HW reporters and writers follow a strict disclosure policy, the first in the mortgage trade