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US consumer sentiment picks up slightly, driven by income and wealth gains among top earners

In this June 4, 2014 photo, a shopper checks out an item for sale at a Costco in Plano, Texas. The University of Michigan issues its index of consumer sentiment for August 2014 on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

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In this June 4, 2014 photo, a shopper checks out an item for sale at a Costco in Plano, Texas. The University of Michigan issues its index of consumer sentiment for August 2014 on Friday, Aug. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

WASHINGTON - U.S. consumer sentiment ticked up in August, driven by greater optimism about jobs, rising incomes, and increasing wealth. The increase largely occurred among higher-income groups.

The University of Michigan says its index of consumer sentiment rose to 82.5 from 81.8 in July. Still, it has barely risen in the past year.

Consumers have sent mixed signals in recent months. The Michigan index has fluctuated between 80 and 82.5 since December. A measure of consumer confidence by the Conference Board rose this month to nearly a seven-year high. And yet Americans cut back their spending in July.

Nearly 60 per cent of households in the top third of income earners say they are financially better off this month, the Michigan survey found, compared with only 36 per cent in the bottom two-thirds.

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