WASHINGTON — Consumer sentiment perked up in May to its highest level in more than six years, according to a survey released Friday, helped by falling gasoline prices, a rising stock market and firmer housing prices.
The preliminary May reading of the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index jumped to a reading of 83.7, well up from 76.4 in April and the best reading since July 2007, according to news reports. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected a 77.5 reading.
“Cheaper gasoline prices, and low inflation in general, may be providing enough of an offset to the hit from higher payroll taxes that came at the start of the year,” said Avery Shenfeld of CIBC World Markets.
Rising employment — payrolls have grown an average of 208,000 in the past six months — also has helped, even as the jobless rate remains elevated.