Gas prices have risen 22 cents on average since the beginning of 2012. Reality-based tidbits like that go a long way to explaining a drop in consumer sentiment in the face of a rosy macroeconomic picture being painted in the media. - 

The Pulse is down a beat today on news that Americans are less enthusiastic about spending their hard-earned cash than we were a month ago. That’s according to the February consumer-sentiment index from Reuters and the University of Michigan. It fell 2.5 points, from a one-year high of 75 in January. (To give you a little perspective, the index has soared as high as 112 in January of 2000 and sunk as low as 55.3 in November 2008.)

The drop seems counterintuitive for those who follow macroeconomic issues closely. Markets are up (the Dow’s up more than 2,000 points since October), jobs are returning (the U.S. economy added 243,000 new jobs in January), wronged homeowners got some relief this week (in the form of a $25 billion settlement between big banks and the Feds), and even Greece seems to have grabbed a lifeline (in the form of a $172 billion eurozone bailout).

So why the fall dip in consumer sentiment?

Many economists are looking past the rose-tinted headlines and pointing out that average Americans are still struggling with real issues, like stagnant wages and creeping gas prices.