Consumer sentiment, inflation expectations rise

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Consumer sentiment rose a bit in May from April but stayed roughly unchanged from levels reported since February, while the one-year inflation expectations climbed to the highest since October 2008, a survey showed on Friday.

The final May reading on the overall index of consumer sentiment was 73.6, up from April’s reading of 72.2 and up slightly from the preliminary May reading of 73.3, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s Surveys of Consumers report.

Analysts polled by Reuters had predicted a final sentiment reading of 73.3 for May. The sentiment readings for February and March were also at 73.6.

The one-year inflation expectation index rose to 3.2 percent in May -- the highest level since October 2008 when it was 3.9 percent -- from 2.9 percent in April. The five-to-10-year inflation measure rose to 2.9 percent from 2.7 percent.

“The data represents troublesome increases in inflation expectations, especially given the recent declines in gas prices,” Richard Curtin, director of the surveys, said in a statement.

Consumer sentiment is seen as a proxy for consumer spending that fuels 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

The surveys’ gauge of current economic conditions was at 81.0 at the end of May, the same reading as April. The May reading was slightly below 81.1 forecast by analysts.

The barometer of consumer expectations rose in May. It came in at 68.8 versus 66.5 in April. It was slightly above the 68.0 level predicted by analysts.

The index of consumers’ 12-month economic outlook rose to 83 in May from 80 in April.

Reporting by Caroline Valetkevitch; Editing by Theodore d’Afflisio