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Data: University Of Michigan; Chart: Axios Visuals

Stock markets closed at record highs again but consumers remain in a malaise, with expectations for the future trending away from their high levels at the start of 2020 and back toward the lows they plumbed in May, as the pandemic forced municipalities around the country to impose lockdown restrictions.

Driving the news: Friday's release of the University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index showed the overall index and consumer expectations index at their weakest level since September.

Between the lines: The entire decline in February's sentiment index was "concentrated in the expectation index and among households with incomes below $75,000," survey analysts said in a release.

  • "Households with incomes in the bottom third reported significant setbacks in their current finances, with fewer of these households mentioning recent income gains than anytime since 2014."

The bottom line: "When asked to assess their current financial position, the deep divisions become apparent: among those with incomes in the bottom third, just 23% reported improved finances, the lowest since 2014; in contrast, among those with incomes in the top third, 54% reported their finances had improved.

  • "Mentions of income gains fell to just 17% among those in the bottom third, compared with 44% in the top income third."

Go deeper: The winter COVID surge has reversed progress on economic inequality

Go deeper

DiDi to delist from NYSE under Chinese govt pressure

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Chinese ride-hail giant DiDi said it will delist from the New York Stock Exchange, following a Chinese government crackdown on foreign listings.

Why it matters: This reflects how geopolitical tensions are bleeding into the capital markets.

Updated 24 mins ago - Health

Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states

A healthcare worker inserts a Covid-19 rapid test into a machine in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Daniel Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hawaii became on Thursday the fifth state to confirm the newly discovered Omicron variant after New York announced five new cases earlier in the day.

The latest: In Hawaii, the variant was found in an unvaccinated O'ahu resident with moderate symptoms who had previously been infected with COVID-19, per a state health department statement. The variant has also been confirmed in California, Colorado and Minnesota.

Senate Dems receive max donations from Nord Stream 2 lobbyist

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A major Democratic donor and Nord Stream 2 lobbyist has made maximum campaign contributions this year to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and vulnerable Senate Democrats, campaign finance records show.

Why it matters: If pressure from the White House to vote against reimposing sanctions on the Russia-backed natural gas pipeline weren't enough, Democrats who back such legislation also will be at loggerheads with one of their party's top fundraisers.