U.S. consumer sentiment steadies in September after August plunge -UMich

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(Reuters) - U.S. consumer sentiment steadied in early September after plunging the month before to its lowest level in nearly a decade, but consumers continue to have a bleak view of the outlook amid a stiff bout of inflation, a survey showed on Friday.

The University of Michigan said its consumer sentiment indexedged up to 71 in the first half of September from 70.3 in August - the lowest since December 2011. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a reading of 72.

Assessments of current conditions slipped further, to 77.1 from 78.5 in August, while the survey's forward-looking expectations index ticked up to 67.1 from 65.1, which had been the lowest since 2013.

"The steep August falloff in consumer sentiment ended in early September, but the small gain still meant that consumers expected the least favorable economic prospects in more than a decade," the survey's director, Richard Curtin, said in a statement.

Consumers' views of inflation remain elevated, although they appear to have stopped charging higher as they did over the summer when key official gauges of price increases hit their highest levels in years.

The survey's one-year inflation outlook ticked back up to 4.7% this month to match July's reading, which had been the highest since 2008, from 4.6% in August. The five-year outlook, meanwhile, held steady at 2.9%.

(Reporting By Dan Burns; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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