Washington: 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 per cent advance the prior month that was revised up, Commerce Department figures showed on Friday. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey called for a 0.1 per cent increase. Income climbed 0.2 per cent, 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 per cent in August after 0.5 per cent gains in the previous two months.
Disposable income, or the money left over after taxes, softened to a 0.1 per cent gain after adjusting for inflation. It rose 0.3 per cent in the prior month.
Adjusting consumer spending for inflation, which generates the figures used to calculate GDP, purchases fell 0.1 per cent after climbing 0.3 per cent 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 per cent annualised rate from April through June, more than initially estimated, Commerce Department figures showed on Thursday. Household purchases jumped 4.3 per cent, the most since 2014, while business investment stayed weak.
Forecasts for August consumer spending ranged from a 0.1 per cent drop to a 0.4 per cent increase, according to the Bloomberg survey. The previous month’s reading was initially reported as a gain of 0.3 per cent.
The saving rate rose to 5.7 per cent from 5.6 per cent.
Purchases of durable goods, which include automobiles, decreased 1.3 per cent after adjusting for inflation. That followed a 2.3 per cent surge.
Household outlays on services rose 0.1 per cent 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 per cent from the prior month and was up 1 per cent from a year earlier.
The core price measure, which excludes food and fuel, rose 0.2 per cent from the prior month and was up 1.7 per cent from August 2015. Inflation hasn’t reached the Fed’s 2 per cent goal since 2012.