U.S. Consumer Sentiment Improves in Early May -U. Mich.

U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly improved in early May, as a favorable job outlook and a booming stock market muted the impact of record high gasoline prices, according to a poll published on Friday.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary May reading on consumer sentiment index rose to 88.7 from 87.1 at the end of April.

Recent University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Reports

Index Level
2006 - Dec 91.7 - 0.4
2007 - Jan 96.9 + 5.2
2007 - Feb 91.3 - 5.6
2007 - Mar 88.4 - 2.9
2007 - Apr 87.1 - 1.3
2007 - May 88.7 + 1.6
source: Haver Analytics

The median forecast on the overall sentiment reading among 65 analysts polled by Reuters was 86.5.

The survey's gauge of current consumer conditions was 103.8 in early May, down from a final April reading of 104.6, but its preliminary May measure on consumer expectations was 79.0, up from 75.9.

The preliminary May figures showed some consumers were not rattled by the recent surge in gasoline prices, which broke above $3 a gallon in recent weeks, the survey said.

The survey's one-year inflation expectations index edged down to 3.2 percent in early May from a seven-month high of 3.3 percent set in late April. while its five- to 10-year inflation expectations index held steady at 3.1 percent.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers, a monthly series of data on U.S. consumer sentiment, are produced by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. From January 2007, Reuters has exclusive rights to distribute the data.