"Economists are pessimists: they've predicted 8 of the last 3 depressions."
--Barry Asmus

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Personal Income and Outlays

Join me now as I attempt to pull my attention away from the nailbiting race to default (15 hours, 30 minutes and counting) and look at something else that affects the economy.  In this case, Personal Income and Outlays.
This is a report that tells you exactly what it is - an examination of the change in individual income and spending, as well as an examination of one of many measures of inflation (the Personal Consumption Expenditures price index).  Why does the market pay attention to this report?  Well - and stop me if you've heard something like this before - personal outlays represent some 30% to 35% of GDP on average.  So, if consumer spending is increasing, it's a sign that GDP will improve.  And after the terrible Q1 final GDP figure, and the disappointing Q2 advance figures, we could use a sign that GDP will improve.
The May results were mixed.  Personal income rose 0.3%, but consumer spending was flat and the core PCE price index rose 0.3% as well.  Looking to June (and yes, this is a lagging indicator), the Econoday-surveyed analysts are expecting another month of mixed results.  They're calling for a 0.2% increase in personal income, a 0.1% increase in consumer spending, and a 0.1% increase in the core PCE price index.
It is probably no surprise that we turn to the Bureau of Economic Analysis for the actual results.  And those results are disappointing.  Personal income rose only 0.1%, missing expectations, with disposable personal income[1] rising 0.1% as well.  Personal consumption expenditures - also known as consumer spending - decreased 0.2% (also missing expectations).  On the other hand, the core PCE price index rose 0.1% - exactly in line with expectations.
Of course, it's really not a good sign when the only thing that doesn't miss expectations is inflation.
[1] Defined as "personal income less taxes".

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