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March's Economic Numbers

The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index showed a larger-than-expected drop in confidence with the index falling at mid-month to a reading of 85.3, down from 87.7 in April. One of the components — consumers' expectations about the future — fell sharply to 73.7, down from 77 in April.

American businesses increased inventories by 0.4 percent in March as total sales accelerated sharply following a February setback, the Commerce Department reported Friday.

In other economic news, the Labor Department reported Friday that the prices of imported goods rose by 0.8 percent in April, the slowest pace in three months. The slowdown reflected the fact that oil prices last month retreated from record highs. Import prices had surged by 2 percent in March, the largest gain in nearly 15 years.

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