Consumer confidence falls more than expected in May

Consumer confidence came in lower than expected in May even as the economy is showing signs of growth heading into the summer. 

Sentiment dropped to 81.8, from 84.1 in April, according to the month's preliminary index from Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan released on Friday.

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Consumers are getting plenty of mixed messages. Labor and stock markets are improving, but prices are increasing for food, gas and housing as that sector tries to emerge from winter's economic deep freeze. 

That could force them to hold back on spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. 

Another government report on Friday showed housing starts hit their highest level since November, but that was mostly because of a sharp rise in multifamily construction. 

Housing starts rose to 1.07 million, a 13.2 percent increase over the March level, the Commerce Department said. 

Also, homebuilder confidence remained flat, though there is more optimism that buyers will return to the market in the coming months, according to a Thursday report. 

Meanwhile, Friday's survey showed that consumers views about their personal finances decreased to 95.1 this month from 98.7 in April while their expectations for six months down the road dropped to 73.2 from 74.7 in March.