U.S. consumer sentiment worsened in February, despite a strong employment showing in January that added 243,000 jobs and reduced the [unemployment] jobless rate to 8.3 percent. The latest Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment dipped this month to 72.5 points, down from 75 in January and lower than most analysts' projections. The revised figure for January was the highest since February of last year. Only 23 percent of surveyed Americans reported an overall improving financial situation in early February, down from 29 percent last month and 30 percent a year ago, Reuters reports. The findings offer somewhat of a contrast to recent economic news, which has shown gains in employment, GDP, factory output and stock market activity, among other improving trends. Analysts worry that a continued lending crunch may further limit Americans' spending and credit decisions
. "This pattern of responses - less favorable current assessments and more favorable prospects - is not surprising," said survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement. "It simply indicates that consumers find their current situation all the harder to bear when improvement is finally in sight."