Proper public sentiment can galvanize economies just as powerfully as it can push new government policy. How the average U.S. consumer feels about his personal financial situation and the surrounding business environment greatly influences momentum in the markets. And with so much current COVID-induced uncertainty about where things are headed, indicators of public sentiment can become even more important in figuring out trends. Thus, the release last week of the preliminary September reading of the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index, possibly the most scrutinized monthly gauge of the public's feelings about finances, was highly anticipated. The index takes a survey of U.S. consumer confidence on personal finances, the short-term overall economy, and the long-term overall economy and then converts those answers into a number where a higher score indicates greater optimism. The September reading beat market expectations with a value of 78.9, the highest level since March of this year. Of course, as the chart below shows, this is far below the readings taken before the coronavirus lockdowns. However, the chart also shows that we shouldn't be too sentimental about past sentiments, as public feelings about finances and the economy were much more pessimistic during the Great Recession of 2008-2009 according to the index.