Preliminary data released by the University of Michigan on Friday unexpectedly showed a modest improvement in U.S. consumer sentiment in the month of July.

The report showed the consumer sentiment index inched up to 51.1 in July from a record low 50.0 in June. The uptick surprised economists, who had expected the index to edge down to 49.9.

The unexpected increase by the headline index came as the current economic conditions index climbed to 57.1 in July from 53.8 in June.

On the other hand, the report showed a modest decrease by the index of consumer expectations, which edged down to 47.3 in July from 47.5 in June.

The data showed inflation expectations eased slightly, with one-year inflation expectations dipping to 5.2 percent in July from 5.3 in June and five-year inflation expectations slipping to 2.8 percent from 3.1 percent.

"While the recent decline in national gasoline prices may offer some respite to consumers, sentiment is unlikely to improve materially over the near-term," said John Canavan Lead U.S. Analyst at Oxford Economics.

He added, "Households have yet to retrench significantly, but rising interest rates, eroding purchasing power due to inflation, and elevated economic uncertainty are likely to restrain sentiment and weigh on consumers during the coming months."

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