March 16 (UPI) -- U.S. consumer confidence has risen this month to its highest level since 2004, a study said Friday.
The University of Michigan Survey of Consumers "index of consumer sentiment" rose from 99.2 in February to 102.0 in March, a record favorable assessment of current economic conditions.
Respondents with incomes in the lower third of distribution were the most optimistic, the surveys shows.
"All of the gain in the Sentiment Index was among households with incomes in the bottom third (+15.7), while the economic assessments of those with incomes in the top third posted a significant monthly decline (-7.3). The decline among upper income consumers was focused on the outlook for the economy and their personal finances," Curtin wrote. "Consumers continued to adjust their expectations in reaction to new economic policies. In early March, favorable mentions of the tax reform legislation were offset by unfavorable references to the tariffs on steel and aluminum; each was spontaneously cited by one-in-five consumers."
The index figure of 102 is a 5.3 percent increase from a year ago.
Survey data included significant positive sentiment about the near-term economy, with 59 percent of respondents reporting recent personal financial progress. That figure is the largest in that category since the survey began in 1946.
Inflation worries, though, increased in March to their highest level since 2015, with respondents expecting an average 2.9 percent increase in the next year. The survey in January and February noted an expected 2.5 percent annual increase.
A final reading of the month's data will be released on March 29.