A busy day on the U.S. economic beat—dominated by a dismal report on the U.S. employment picture—brought the latest data on personal income and spending. And these figures—though in the ballpark of what the consensus had been expecting for the month of April—did not make for a flattering view of the U.S. economy either.
Specifically, the government reported that personal income climbed 0.2% in April, compared to a 0.4% increase in March and a 0.3% reading in February. Meantime, personal consumption expenditures for the period increased 0.3%, up from a 0.2% advance in March. While it is encouraging that the consumer has spent more in recent months, it remains to be seen whether a pickup in spending is sustainable, which would be a huge lift for a lackluster economy and the all-important consumer sector (accounts for roughly two-thirds of the nation’s economic output), during the peak spending months on vacations. It should be noted that personal income growth was the slowest in five months.
Thus, we do look ahead with a rather cautious eye. The aforementioned slowdown in job creation is a negative development for the consumer, but the likely subsequent pullback in energy costs—crude oil prices continue to tumble on the New York Mercantile Exchange—may help keep spending at a decent level in the coming months. Still, it appears that disposable income and likely spending on vacations and big-ticket items could be at some risk. In fact, the latest report showed that despite the increase in personal income, real disposable income was flat (at 0.2%), versus the prior-month reading.
All in all, this far from uplifting report—especially when taken in combination with the dour employment news—does raise questions, at least in our minds, about whether the growth in personal spending, especially that of the disposable variety, is sustainable.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.