WASHINGTON — Consumers boosted their spending in October at the fastest pace in seven months, while their incomes rose by the largest amount in nine months — both good signs for future economic growth.
Consumer spending rose a sharp 0.6 per cent last month, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. It was the biggest increase since a similar gain in March and was three times faster than the 0.2 per cent September performance. Incomes, which provide the fuel for spending, were up 0.5 per cent in October, a significant pickup from a 0.2 per cent September gain.
A key gauge of inflation tied to consumer spending posted a 2 per cent rise in October compared to a year ago, hitting the annual target for inflation set by the Federal Reserve.
Excluding volatile food and energy costs, inflation has posted a 12-month gain of 1.8 per cent in October, down from a 1.9 per cent September advance.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell ignited a big rally on Wall Street on Wednesday with a speech which investors read as a signal that the central bank may slow the pace of interest rate hikes next year. The Fed has boosted rates three times this year and is expected to increase rates a fourth time in December.
President Donald Trump has been vocal in his criticism of those rate hikes, blaming them for the big drop in stock prices over the past two months and arguing that they were not needed given that inflation is under control.
Both the climbs in spending and income were stronger than economists had been forecasting.
Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for 70 per cent of economic activity. The government reported Wednesday that the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a 3.5 per cent rate in the July-September quarter. Economists are looking for GDP growth to slow to around 2.5 per cent in the current quarter. But for the year, they expect GDP will grow by around 3 per cent, the strongest performance in 13 years.
The rise in spending reflected strong gains in purchases of durable goods, items such as autos expected to last at least three years, and non-durable goods and services such as utility payments. After adjusting for inflation, the spending increase was a still-strong 0.4 per cent, up from a tiny 0.1 per cent inflation-adjusted rise in September.
The advance in personal incomes included a 0.3 per cent rise in wages and salaries.
The faster increase in spending compared to income growth left the saving rate at 6.2 per cent of after-tax income, down slightly from 6.3 per cent in September.
This story has been corrected to show that the month of consumer spending report is October, not September.
Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press