WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. consumer sentiment rose in December to its highest level since July, lifted in part by low inflation, which has boosted Americans' purchasing power.

WASHINGTON (AP) - U.S. consumer sentiment rose in December to its highest level since July, lifted in part by low inflation, which has boosted Americans' purchasing power.

The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index rose to 92.6 from 91.3 in November. That's just below this year's average of 92.9, the highest annual average in 11 years.

The mood of consumers has been boosted by steady hiring, which has brought the unemployment rate down to a seven-year low of 5 percent. There are also early signs that businesses are offering higher pay to attract and keep workers.

Inflation remains low, having risen just 0.4 percent in the past 12 months, according to the Federal Reserve's preferred gauge. That has spurred more consumers to purchase household appliances and other big-ticket goods, the Michigan survey found.