Not good for this part of the cycle, as we remain grossly overtaxed for the size govt we have
By Shobhana Chandra
May 26 (Bloomberg) — Consumer spending cooled in the first quarter more than previously estimated as the jump in food and fuel costs held back the biggest part of the U.S. economy.
Household purchases rose at a 2.2 percent annual pace from January through March, less than the 2.7 percent calculated last month and short of the 2.8 percent median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, according to Commerce Department figures issued today in Washington. The economy grew at a 1.8 percent pace last quarter, the same as previously calculated.
The number of workers filing applications for unemployment insurance benefits increased by 10,000 to 424,000 in the week ended May 21, according to data from the Labor Department. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected claims would decrease to 404,000.
A monthlong slide in consumer confidence ended last week as gasoline prices retreated, another report showed. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to minus 48.4 in the period to May 22 from a nine-month low of minus 49.4 the prior week. Readings of minus 40 or less are generally associated with recessions and their aftermaths, the report said.
The economy last quarter maintained the previously reported pace of growth as bigger gains in inventories and a smaller decline in commercial construction compensated for the slowdown in spending.
The gain in consumer purchases, which account for about 70 percent of the economy, followed a 4 percent increase in the fourth quarter was the biggest since the end of 2006. Cuts in spending on gasoline and utilities, combined with a smaller increase in demand for autos, contributed to the slowdown in the first three months of the year.
The price gauge tied to spending increased at a 3.8 percent pace in the first quarter, the biggest advance since the third quarter of 2008. Excluding food and fuel, the numbers tracked by Federal Reserve policy makers, prices climbed at a 1.4 percent rate.
Smaller Wage Gain
The GDP report also showed wages and salaries climbed by $27.9 billion from October through December, down from a prior estimate of $52.5 billion. Real disposable income, or after-tax earnings adjusted for inflation, climbed 1.1 percent in the fourth quarter, rather than the 1.9 percent gain previously estimated. They rose 0.8 percent in the first three months of the year, less than the 2.9 percent prior calculation.
The smaller gain in pay dwarfed the slowdown in spending, pushing the savings rate down to 5.1 percent in the first quarter from a prior estimate of 5.7 percent.
Today’s report also offered a first look at profits. Earnings before taxes were up 1.3 percent from the prior quarter, the smallest gain in more than two years, after rising 2.3 percent in the prior period. They climbed 8.5 percent from the same time last year.
Manufacturing, which accounts for 12 percent of the economy, is slowing this quarter as disruptions in the supply of components temporarily weigh on production until Japanese factories recover from the fallout of the March disaster.
Economists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York each cut second-quarter growth forecasts by half a percentage point this week, citing setbacks in vehicle output caused by supply disruptions. Goldman trimmed its projection to 3 percent, while JPMorgan lowered it to 2.5 percent.