U.S August Consumer Spending Little Changed

Consumer spending was little changed in August as income growth cooled, pointing to a softening in consumption after a run of strong gains.

The August result followed a 0.4 percent advance the prior month that was revised up, Commerce Department figures showed Friday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.1 percent increase. Income climbed 0.2 percent, while inflation-adjusted spending dropped for the first time since January.

The data are consistent with projections that consumer purchases will provide a smaller but respectable contribution to economic growth this quarter after the strongest quarterly advance since 2014. While robust employment and healthier finances are underpinning household spending, bigger paychecks would help provide an even larger boost.

“Consumer spending will continue to grind higher, though it’s unlikely to grow at the pace we saw last quarter,” Jennifer Lee, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said before the report. “You need to see more than one month of slowing before it becomes a concern.”

The gain in personal income was the weakest since a decline in February and reflected a slowdown in worker pay. Wages climbed 0.1 percent in August after 0.5 percent gains in the previous two months.

Incomes Slow

Disposable income, or the money left over after taxes, softened to a 0.1 percent gain after adjusting for inflation. It rose 0.3 percent in the prior month.

Adjusting consumer spending for inflation, which generates the figures used to calculate GDP, purchases fell 0.1 percent after climbing 0.3 percent the previous month. The decline in August matched a January decrease that was the largest since the start of 2014.

Gross domestic product expanded at a 1.4 percent annualized rate from April through June, more than initially estimated, Commerce Department figures showed on Thursday. Household purchases jumped 4.3 percent, the most since 2014, while business investment stayed weak.

Forecasts for August consumer spending ranged from a 0.1 percent drop to a 0.4 percent increase, according to the Bloomberg survey. The previous month’s reading was initially reported as a gain of 0.3 percent.

The saving rate rose to 5.7 percent from 5.6 percent.

Purchases of durable goods, which include automobiles, decreased 1.3 percent after adjusting for inflation. That followed a 2.3 percent surge.

Services Spending

Household outlays on services rose 0.1 percent after adjusting for inflation, the weakest since a drop in March. The category includes tourism, legal help, health care, and personal care items such as haircuts, and is typically difficult for the government to estimate accurately.

The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation picked up, the report showed. The price gauge based on the personal consumption expenditures index increased 0.1 percent from the prior month and was up 1 percent from a year earlier.

The core price measure, which excludes food and fuel, rose 0.2 percent from the prior month and was up 1.7 percent from August 2015. Inflation hasn’t reached the Fed’s 2 percent goal since 2012.


Dean Popplewell

Dean Popplewell

Vice-President of Market Analysis at MarketPulse
Dean Popplewell has nearly two decades of experience trading currencies and fixed income instruments. He has a deep understanding of market fundamentals and the impact of global events on capital markets. He is respected among professional traders for his skilled analysis and career history as global head of trading for firms such as Scotia Capital and BMO Nesbitt Burns. Since joining OANDA in 2006, Dean has played an instrumental role in driving awareness of the forex market as an emerging asset class for retail investors, as well as providing expert counsel to a number of internal teams on how to best serve clients and industry stakeholders.
Dean Popplewell