U.S. consumer sentiment improved in early May, as optimism about jobs reduced the pinch from high gasoline and food prices, a survey released on Friday showed.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's survey of consumers showed the preliminary May reading on the overall index came in at 72.4, its highest since February, up from 69.8 in April.
It was above the median forecast of 70.0 among economists polled by Reuters in the wake of last week's government data showing a 244,000 increase in U.S. payrolls in April, the biggest one-month increase in 11 months.
"These impressive job gains were mirrored in consumers' evaluations of their personal finances, but those favorable changes were completely offset by rising prices," said Richard Curtin, director of the survey, in a statement.
Separately, the survey showed the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had no impact on consumers' expectations of their own finances or for the overall economy.
The survey's gauge of consumer expectations rose to 67.4, the highest in three months. It was above April's 61.6 and a predicted reading of 61.8.
A third of consumers surveyed expect the economy would improve during the year ahead, up from a fourth of them in April.
But the survey's barometer of current economic conditions fell to 80.2, the lowest since October. It came in below the 82.5 figure in April and a forecast of 82.8.
The survey's one-year inflation expectation fell to 4.4 percent from 4.6 percent in April, while the survey's five-to-10-year inflation outlook edged up to 3.0 percent from 2.9 percent in April.
"The easing of inflation expectations was helped by falling gas price expectations in early May," Curtin said.
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