A widely monitored measure of consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest level in more than a year.

A preliminary reading of the University of Michigan-Thomas Reuters index of consumer sentiment showed it at 71.3 in January, below December's reading of 72.9 and the lowest the indicator has been since December 2011.

Consumers and investors are both remaining cautious given the ongoing budget battles in Washington. Consumer sentiment also fell significantly in December 2012 leading up to the 'fiscal cliff' deadline on December 31. That was down dramatically from a 4 1/2 year high in November 2012.

The Michigan-Reuters sentiment gauge measures how U.S. consumers feel about their personal finances, the business climate and buying conditions.

The indicator averaged a level of 87 in the year leading up to the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008.