U.S. consumer spending posts healthy gain in May

Paul Wiseman
Associated Press

Washington — U.S. consumer spending rose solidly last month, good news for the economy.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that consumer spending increased 0.4 percent in May on top of a 1.1 percent surge in April. Spending on durable goods such as autos and appliances grew 0.6 percent, down from a 2.6 percent jump in April.

The numbers show that consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, picked up in the spring after getting off to a slow start in 2016. The economy grew at a lackluster 1.1 percent pace from January through March, partly because consumer spending grew at the slowest pace in two years.

Still, Americans’ incomes grew just 0.2 percent in May, down from 0.5 percent in April.

But it’s unclear how American consumers will respond to Britain’s decision last week to leave the European Union, which so far has rattled global financial markets and raised fears over prospects for the world economy.

On Tuesday, the Conference Board, a business group, reported that its consumer confidence index rose in June to the highest level since October. But its survey was taken before the “Brexit” vote.

The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index, out last Friday, registered deterioration in consumers’ spirits this month.

An inflation gauge watched by the Federal Reserve showed prices are up 0.9 percent over the past year, 1.6 percent excluding volatile food and energy costs. Both numbers are well below the Fed’s target of 2 percent.