Retail sales point to firmer consumer spending

WASHINGTON, Tue Jan 15, 2013 — Retail sales rose more than expected in December as Americans shrugged off the threat of higher taxes and bought automobiles and a range of other goods, suggesting momentum in consumer spending as the year ended.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday retail sales increased 0.5 percent after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent rise in November. Sales in November were previously reported to have gained 0.3 percent.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected sales to rise only 0.2 percent. Sales were up 4.7 percent from December 2011 and rose 5.2 percent for the whole of 2012.

So-called core sales, which strip out automobiles, gasoline and building materials and correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product, increased 0.6 percent after advancing 0.5 percent in November.

The second straight month of gains in core sales suggested consumer spending picked up in the fourth quarter after rising at a annual pace of 1.6 percent in the July through September period.

Retail sales in July point to rebound in consumer spending

WASHINGTON, Tue Aug 14, 2012– Retail sales rose in July for the first time in four months as demand rose broadly for everything from cars to electronics, a sign that consumers could drive faster economic growth in the third quarter.

Retail sales rose 0.8 percent last month, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.

It was the biggest gain since February and well above analysts’ expectations. Economists polled by Reuters had expected retail sales to rise 0.3 percent.

The report bolsters the view that the slowdown in economic growth during the second quarter will prove temporary.

It also offers some relief for President Barack Obama, whose November re-election bid has been imperiled by a weak jobs market. Republican challenger Mitt Romney is focusing his campaign on the weak economy that has plagued Obama’s presidency.

The report could also splash a bit of water on hopes the Federal Reserve could soon launch another bond-buying program to help the economy.

Job creation in the United States slowed dramatically in the second quarter as consumer spending cooled and economic growth slowed. Job creation accelerated in July although the unemployment rate still rose to 8.3 percent.

Pointing to a strong increase in consumer spending during July, the so-called core measure of retail sales – which excludes autos, gasoline and building materials – rose 0.9 percent. That was the biggest gain since January.

Consumer confidence rises in July unexpectedly

NEW YORK, Tue Jul 31, 2012 – Consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in July as Americans were more optimistic about the short-term outlook than they were about their current conditions, according to a private sector report released on Tuesday.
The Conference Board, an industry group, said its index of consumer attitudes climbed to 65.9 from a upwardly revised 62.7 in June, topping economists’ expectations for a decline to 61.5.
June was originally reported as 62.0.
Despite the improvement, confidence still remains at historically low levels, Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said in a statement.
“While consumers expressed greater optimism about short-term business and employment prospects, they have grown more pessimistic about their earnings. Given the current economic environment – in particular the weak labor market – consumer confidence is not likely to gain any significant momentum in the coming months,” said Franco.
The expectations index improved to 79.1 from 73.4, while the present situation index edged down to 46.2 from 46.6.
Consumers’ labor market assessment was mixed as the “jobs plentiful” index slipped to 7.8 percent from 8.3 percent, while the “jobs hard to get” index also fell to 40.8 percent from 41.2 percent.
The view in six months from now was more optimistic, with 17.6 percent expecting to see more jobs, up from 14.8 percent in June.
But consumers were more concerned about price increases, with expectations for inflation in the coming 12 months rising to 5.4 percent from 5.3 percent.

Inflation-adjusted consumer spending falls in June

WASHINGTON, Tue Jul 31, 2012 – Spending by American consumers fell in June for the first time in nearly a year when accounting for inflation, suggesting the economy lost momentum as it ended the second quarter.
Consumer spending, which makes up about 70 percent of economic activity, fell 0.1 percent when adjusted for rising prices, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday.
Before making price adjustments, spending was flat. That was just below the median forecast in a Reuters poll of 0.1 percent increase.
Pressure is rising on policymakers at the Federal Reserve to do more to help the sputtering economy. The faltering recovery also weighs on President Barack Obama’s hopes of reelection in November.
The Commerce Department had already reported that economic growth slowed over the entire second quarter as consumers spent at their slowest pace in a year. But Tuesday’s data showed consumer spending lost momentum throughout the period when taking inflation into account.
Household income rose in June by 0.5 percent – the most in three months – although consumers socked away part of the extra cash by saving more.
Analysts had expected a gain of 0.4 percent. After tax income climbed 0.3 percent in June when accounting for higher prices.
With price-adjusted incomes rising in June and consumption falling, the saving rate for households rose to 4.4 percent, its highest level in a year.
A report on Friday is expected to show the jobless rate holding at 8.2 percent in July. It has been above 8 percent since February 2009 – nearly all of Obama’s time in office so far.

U.S. March personal incomes rise, consumers save more

WASHINGTON, Mon Apr 30, 2012 – U.S. household income rose in March by the most in three months but consumers socked away part of the extra cash and only modestly increased spending, suggesting economic growth ended the first quarter on a soft note.

The Commerce Department said on Monday consumer income rose 0.4 percent last month. Analysts had expected a gain of 0.3 percent. After-tax income climbed 0.2 percent in March when accounting for higher prices.

Consumer spending rose 0.3 percent last month, also just below the median forecast in a Reuters poll of 0.4 percent.

When taking into account inflation, which has been fed in recent months by higher gasoline prices, spending was up 0.1 percent.

“The spending number is an indication that the higher gas prices we saw last month are taking their toll,” said Todd Schoenberger, managing principal at the Black Bay Group in New York.

U.S. economic growth cooled in the first quarter as businesses cut back on investment and restocked shelves at a slower pace. The economy grew at an annualized pace of 2.2 percent in the first three months of the year, data on Friday showed, a slowdown from the fourth quarter’s 3.0 percent rate.

Stronger consumer spending over the entire quarter cushioned the blow, but Monday’s data suggested consumers ended the quarter spending less freely.

With consumption rising less quickly than income, the saving rate edged higher to 3.8 percent.

Prices for U.S. government debt held steady at higher levels, while U.S. stock index futures were slightly lo

Consumer sentiment little changed in April, according to survey

NEW YORK, Fri Apr 27, 2012 – Consumer sentiment was little changed in April as Americans expected the economy to slowly improve, though they were less cheery about the state of their own finances, a survey released on Friday showed.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan’s final reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment inched up to 76.4 from 76.2 in March.

The survey topped economists’ forecasts for 75.7, which had been the preliminary figure reported in early April.

While recent developments in the overall economy were viewed as being somewhat less favorable, the outlook for the recovery still improved.

The gauge of consumer expectations rose to 72.3 from 69.8, while the component measuring the five-year outlook rose to 92 from 89.

However, just one in four households expected their finances to improve during the year, and the survey’s barometer of current economic conditions fell to 82.9 from 86.0.

Twenty-eight percent of respondents said their finances improved in April, down from 34 percent in March and a slight improvement over 27 percent last year.

More shoppers open to giving personal info: survey

NEW YORK ― Welcome to the era of the candid consumer.

From their food allergies to home addresses, shoppers around the world are becoming increasingly willing to share more personal information with their favorite merchants, as they look for a more personalized and efficient shopping experience, an IBM survey of more than 28,000 people in 15 countries showed.

That is good news for retailers on both sides of the Atlantic as they look for ways to target the right demographic of shoppers with new products.

“They are willing to share information if there is perceived benefit,” said Jill Puleri, global retail leader of IBM’s global business services. “It doesn’t have to be monetary benefit.”While consumers around the world still have reservations about sharing financial details such as how much they earn, they are less worried about divulging other private information.

For instance, about three-quarters of the people surveyed were willing to dish out details about their media usage such as the TV shows they watch, while 73 percent of the group were fine with disclosing demographic information such as their ethnicity.

About 61 percent of people were comfortable sharing their names and addresses with retailers, while about 59 percent of those surveyed said they were OK with disclosing lifestyle-related information such as whether they owned more than one car, or had moved into a new home, or had a child recently.

“These are things that I think are pretty important to a retailer,” Puleri said, adding that the change in shopper behavior was phenomenal.

“We have always thought the consumer was pretty guarded with their information,” Puleri told Reuters.

More than half of the people surveyed were even willing to disclose their exact location and related information, hoping for a more targeted and smarter shopping experience.

“What it tells us is that they really want a personal experience,” she said. “They don’t want to find advertising in their mailbox or in their email about things they are never going to buy.”

Shoppers in emerging markets such as Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, South Africa and China were more willing to share private information versus their counterparts in mature markets such as Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada and the United States, Puleri said.

Consumer, business spending point to slower growth

WASHINGTON ― U.S. consumer spending was tepid in November and a gauge of business investment plans fell for a second month, pointing to some loss of momentum in the economy as the year ends.

The Commerce Department said on Friday consumer spending ticked up 0.1 percent after rising by the same margin in October. Economists had expected spending, which accounts for two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, to rise 0.3 percent.

In another report, the department said non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending, fell 1.2 percent last month after declining 0.9 percent in October.

While the reports suggest some slowing in activity, they are unlikely to change perceptions that economic growth will top 3 percent in the current quarter after a 1.8 percent pace in July-September, boosted in part by a rebound in inventories.

U.S. stock index futures pared gains on the data, while prices for U.S. government debt trimmed losses. The dollar fell against the euro.

The tepid consumer spending is in stark contrast with robust Black Friday business reported by retailers.

When adjusted for inflation, spending rose 0.2 percent last month after a similar gain in October. The government on Thursday revised down third-quarter consumer spending growth to a 1.7 percent annual pace from 2.3 percent because of a slump in spending at hospitals.

Income ticked up 0.1 percent last month, the weakest reading since August, after increasing 0.4 percent in October. Last month’s increase was below economists’ expectations for a 0.2 percent rise.

Taking inflation into account, disposable income was flat after rising 0.3 percent in October.

“The lack of real income growth really raises questions as to what is going to happen to the economy in the first quarter,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, N.C.

Consumer spending up in September after savings efforts are cut back

WASHINGTON ― Sluggish growth in U.S. consumer income in September led households to cut back on saving to increase their spending, casting doubts over the durability of the economy’s third-quarter growth spurt.

The Commerce Department said on Friday consumer spending increased 0.6 percent, matching expectations, after a 0.2 percent gain in August. Consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity.

With income edging up 0.1 percent last month, spending was at the expense of saving, which dropped to an annual rate of $419.8 billion, the lowest level since August 2009, from $479.1 billion in August.

The saving rate, the percentage of disposable income socked away, fell to 3.6 percent, the slowest since December 2007, from 4.1 percent in August.

Income fell 0.1 percent in August and economists had expected a 0.3 percent increase in September.

“Very weak income, but very solid consumption even though consumer confidence is in recession. So that’s good news for the economy,” said Kurt Karl, chief U.S. economist at Swiss Re in New York. “(But) it’s hard to sustain without more income growth.”

A separate report from the Labor Department showed wages and salaries expanded 0.3 percent in the third quarter — the smallest rise in a year — after gaining 0.4 percent pace in the prior quarter.

U.S. Treasuries prices held steady at higher levels after the data. Stock index futures were lower after a big rally on Thursday, while the euro extended a decline against the dollar.

In September, inflation-adjusted disposable income slipped 0.1 percent, declining for a third straight month.

Sturdy consumer spending contributed to gross domestic product growing at a 2.5 percent annual pace in the third quarter, the fastest rate in a year, after an anemic 1.3 percent rate in the second quarter. Much of the spending data was included in Thursday’s GDP report.

But given that income is not driving spending, the economy could lose some of its new found momentum. Consumer spending grew at a 2.4 percent pace in the last quarter, the fastest in nearly a year.