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Consumer sentiment getting ugly

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NEW YORK U.S. consumer sentiment is plunging in September, according to a survey by the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters.

The number, 76.8 vs 82.1 that economists had expected, is the lowest since April, and dovetails with sagging numbers in retail sales and a housing sector that had been showing a strong recovery but now appears to be cooling.

But in other news, business inventories increased 0.4 percent in July from June, according to the Commerce Department Friday. Inventories rose just 0.1 percent the month before. Total business sales rose 0.6 percent in July, up from just 0.2 percent in June.

Higher inventories can suggest bullishness on the part of businesses expecting to sell more goods.

On Wall Street, modest gains eased as investors digested the news. At 10:13 a.m. ET, the S&P 500 was down a fraction  to1,683.