US consumer confidence fell to a five-month low in September, as Americans saw fiscal uncertainty and higher interest rates ahead, according to a survey released Friday.
The final reading of the consumer sentiment index in September edged down to 77.5, the lowest level since April, from 82.1 in August, the monthly Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan survey of consumers showed. The preliminary reading for the first half of September was 76.8.
The sub-index of current economic conditions, which reflects Americans' perceptions of their financial situation and whether they consider it a good time to buy big-ticket items like houses or cars, dipped to 92.6 in September from 95.2 in August. That was better than the preliminary September reading of 91.8.
The sub-index gauging consumer expectations for six months from now, which more closely projects the direction of consumer spending, fell to 67.8 in September from 73.7 last month. The preliminary September reading was 67.2.
"While few consumers expected a federal shutdown, complaints about the economic policies of the government have risen," Richard Curtin, director of the survey and economist with the University of Michigan, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, despite an unexpected delay in tapering by the Federal Reserve, two-thirds of all consumers expect higher interest rates in the year ahead, he added.
US long-term interest rates have spiked about a full percentage point since early May on speculation that the Federal Reserve may start to scale back bond purchases later this year.
That has pushed up mortgage rates, which could slow the recent momentum in the housing market recovery and hold down consumer confidence.
The consumer sentiment index, released twice each month, one preliminary and the other final, averaged 64.2 during the last recession from December 2007 to June 2009, and was at 89 in the five years leading up to the recession.