U.S. consumer confidence rose to 76.2 in May -- a five-year high -- from 69 in April, topping economists' forecast of 70.7, the Conference Board said Tuesday.
The board's Present Situation Index increased to 66.7 from 61.0 while the Expectations Index improved to 82.4 from 74.3 last month. Despite the increase, the index remains well below its long-term average of 92.
"Consumers' assessment of current business and labor-market conditions was more positive and they were considerably more upbeat about future economic and job prospects," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. "Back-to-back monthly gains suggest that consumer confidence is on the mend and may be regaining the traction it lost due to the fiscal cliff, payroll-tax hike and sequester."
With equity prices rallying, gas prices falling and the housing market recovering, consumer confidence is at a five-year high, reflected in both the expectations and the present conditions indexes.
"Overall it is heartening to see consumers feel upbeat," said Amna Asaf, economist with Capital Economics. "But even at 82.4, the expectations index is consistent with a slowdown in second-quarter consumption growth to 2.5 percent annualized, from 3.2 percent posted in the first quarter."
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The expectations index, which normally reflects changes in equity and gas prices, rose to 82.4 from April's 74.3 level. Meanwhile, the present conditions index, likely boosted by improvements in labor market conditions, rose to a five-year high of 66.7, from the previous month's 61.0 level.
"Gasoline prices have trended lower over the past month or so, although they have most recently stabilized at $3.70 a gallon," said Asaf. "Nonetheless, households' one-year-ahead inflation expectations fell to an 11-month low of 5.3, from 5.5."