Consumer sentiment 79.3 in May vs 76.4 in April (by Ruth Mantell)
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- The final reading of the University of Michigan-Thomson Reuters consumer sentiment index climbed to 79.3 in May - the highest level since October 2007 - from 76.4 in April, according to Friday reports. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a final May reading of 77.8 - matching the preliminary estimate. The index averaged about 87 in the year before the recession. Opposing forces are impacting consumers: declining gas prices and slowing job gains. The sentiment gauge, which covers how consumers view their personal finances as well as business and buying conditions, is used by economists to get a feel for the direction of consumer spending.