Consumer sentiment climbed higher in September to 79.2, the highest level since May, according to reports on the University of Michigan-Thomson Reuters consumer-sentiment gauge released Friday. The preliminary September reading is up from a final August reading of 74.3. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected the index to tick up to 75, with stock gains offsetting a weak jobs report and higher gasoline prices. 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 most recent recession. Economists watch sentiment data to get a feel for the direction of consumer spending.