US consumer spending up weak 0.1 percent in August


Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Consumers barely boosted their spending in August, a sign that overall economic activity could be weaker this quarter.

Consumer spending rose just 0.1 percent, following a much larger 0.3 percent advance in July, the Commerce Department reported Friday. It was the smallest gain since June. The August weakness reflected a big drop in sales of durable goods such as autos.

Income growth slowed to a gain of just 0.2 percent. Wages and salaries, the biggest component, showed no gain at all after strong increases in June and July.

The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew at a robust annual rate of 2.1 percent in the April-June quarter. But many economists believe growth has slowed in the current July-September quarter, reflecting the impact of a string of devastating hurricanes and the subsequent slowdown in consumer spending, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of economic activity.

Some analysts say GDP growth could be as low as a 2 percent annual rate in the third quarter. They are, however, expecting a rebound in the final three months of the year, helped in part by spending on rebuilding after the hurricanes.

The personal saving rate was unchanged at 3.6 percent of after-tax incomes in August, the same as July. Both months represented the lowest saving rate since a 3.2 percent reading in December.

A measure of inflation closely watched by the Federal Reserve posted a slight 0.2 percent increase. Over the past 12 months it is up 1.4 percent, still far below the Fed’s 2 percent target.

The rise in consumer prices from a year ago has been the same for the past three months and represents more than five years that prices have been below the Fed’s 2 percent inflation target.

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