Consumer sentiment hits 94.7 in May vs. 95.5 estimate

Customers browse merchandise at a Costco Wholesale store in Naperville, Illinois.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Consumers were feeling a bit more optimistic in May—but attitudes still weren't as sunny as expected, according to data released Friday.

The index of consumer sentiment hit 94.7 in May, the University of Michigan reported. Economists expected the index to hit 95.5 in May, up from 89 in April, according to a Thomson Reuters consensus estimate.

Consumers had a positive take on vehicle and home sales, which rose amid low interest rates, said Richard Curtin, a chief economist with the survey. Still, Curtin sensed that consumers were still saving money as a precaution, as uncertainty looms over the Federal Reserve's interest rate increases and the presidential election.

The monthly survey of 500 consumers measures attitudes toward topics like personal finances, inflation, unemployment, government policies and interest rates.

Consumers' assessment of current conditions ticked higher, as did their expectations for the future. The current economic conditions index hit 109.9 in May, up from 106.7 in April, while the index of consumer expectations h it 84.9 in May, up from 77.6 the prior month.

"Despite the meager GDP growth as well as a higher inflation rate, consumers became more optimistic about their financial prospects and anticipated a somewhat lower inflation rate in the years ahead," Curtin wrote in a statement. He added: "Although small stock gains are anticipated, household wealth is more likely to benefit from rising home prices, with gains now more frequent than in a decade."

What are markets doing? Click here for the latest on stocks.