UMich consumer sentiment rises to 74 in January (by Ruth Mantell)
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- A gauge of consumer sentiment reached 74 in the preliminary reading for January, the highest level since May, compared with 69.9 in December, according to Friday reports on the data from the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters. Economists polled by MarketWatch had expected a January reading 73 on higher stock prices and improving jobs conditions. The sentiment gauge, which covers how consumers view their personal finances as well as business and buying conditions, averaged about 87 in the year before the start of the most recent recession. Economists watch sentiment data to get a feel for the direction of consumer spending.