Investors encountered a mostly positive mix of economic data Friday, capped off by a 16-year high in the growth index for purchasing managers.

The National Association of Purchasing Management-Chicago said its regional index increased to 68.0 in May from 63.9 in April -- the highest reading since July 1988. A gauge of new orders also showed the highest reading since then.

The employment component of the index rose to 54.8 from 50.9, and has now expanded for two months in a row.

Prices paid rose to 80.0 from 76.1 and new orders were at a 20-year high of 74.4 vs. 65.1 in April.

The Chicago PMI index figures offset a disappointing report on consumer sentiment published just 10 minutes earlier. The University of Michigan's final survey of consumer confidence for May showed its sentiment index falling to 90.2 from April's final reading of 94.2.

The consensus analyst estimate had expected the index to hold steady at 94.2.

The current conditions index dropped to 103.6 from April's final reading of 105, while the expectations index declined to 81.6 from April's final reading of 87.3.

That consumers were perhaps more optimistic a month earlier was borne out by the government's report on consumer spending in April, which showed that spending rose 0.3%, above the consensus expectation of 0.2%. This followed a 0.5% increase in March.

However, fueling hopes for the continued ability of consumers to drive the economic recovery was the Commerce Department's report on personal incomes, which rose by a strong 0.6% in April -- above the consensus estimate of 0.5% -- marking the largest gain since January 2001. The growth in income followed a 0.4% rise in March.