By Greg Robb

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- After hitting a 28-year low in November, consumer sentiment improved in early December, according to a survey by the University of Michigan and Reuters.

The consumer sentiment index rose to 59.1 in December from 55.3 in the previous month. The increase was unexpected. The consensus forecast of Wall Street economists had expected sentiment to drop to 55.

All of the increase came in the current conditions index, which rose to 69.4 from 57.5. Economists attributed the gain to the fall in gasoline prices. The expectations index dropped to 52.4 in December from 53.9.


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