On a day in which the focus of the investment community is likely to be primarily on Europe after news broke that the 17-member euro zone is putting in place some bold moves to tackle the region’s sovereign-debt problems, we also received another report on the U.S. economy.
At 8:30 A.M. (EDT), the U.S. Department of Commerce reported that personal income for the month of May rose 0.2%, while spending was unchanged from the prior month. The data were close to what economists were looking for the latest month.
A closer examination, however, reveals that consumers were a bit hesitant to make purchases last month, especially with the sluggish job growth prospects here—the nation added a paltry 69,000 jobs last month—and the concerns about Europe. The latter worries, though, eased a bit after the aforementioned bold moves for the euro zone were announced. Still, personal spending was unchanged for the first time since November, 2011, and April consumer expenditures were revised to a gain of 0.1% from a previously reported 0.3% increase.
If the lack of spending on the part of shoppers and travelers were to continue it could have an adverse impact on the consumer segment, which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the nation’s economic output. This may well hurt some of the retailers that rely heavily on the all-important summer travel season to boost their annual revenues.
A positive from the latest report was that price increases continued to moderate in May. The pullback in oil prices, notwithstanding today’s sharp rise, is the primary reason for the moderation. Specifically, the closely watched core PCE index, which excludes the volatile energy and food components, grew only 0.1% sequentially in May, and the price index for personal consumption expenditures rose just 1.5% year-over-year in May, the smallest annual gain since January, 2011. The tame inflationary environment gives the Federal Reserve leeway to take monetary action, if it deemed necessary, to jump start the economy. The central bank right now is only committed to a continuation of its “Operation Twist” bond-buying program, designed to keep lending rates at historic lows.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.