By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com -- Consumer sentiment in the U.S. improved in the latest month, while fears of lasting inflation appeared to ease, according to a closely-watched survey published Friday.
The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment index rose from 58.2 to 59.5, a five-month high but a little less than expected, as the extended fall in gasoline prices relieved the pressure on American wallets.
The survey also showed expectations of inflation easing in the medium term. The survey's inflation expectations over the next five years fell to 2.8% from 2.9% a month ago, despite a modest rise in near-term inflation expectations. That suggests that the majority of U.S. consumers still expect the Federal Reserve to bring inflation down from its current 40-year high.
"Consumer morale remains depressed amid elevated uncertainty, but the gas price plunge has made them a little more optimistic," said Greg Daco, chief economist with EY, via Twitter.
The figures come less than a week before the Federal Reserve meets to discuss what will almost certainly be another big hike in interest rates, after raising the fed funds target range by 75 basis points to 2.25%-2.5% at its last meeting.
With consumer price inflation having again turned out surprisingly strong in August, some in the market now fear that the Fed will hike by a full percentage point. Those fears were reflected in the yield on the two-year U.S. Treasury note reaching a 14-year high of 3.92% on Friday. It subsequently retreated to trade at 3.88% by 10:30 ET (14:30 GMT).