Friday, March 30, 2007

Personal Income Up .6%

First a mea culpa. I used to use the NBER site for links to current news releases. I used their link today to get the personal income information. Unfortunately for me, they still had the old link up so I analyzed the February report. This is the second time the NBER has been late in switching links, so I won't be using their site for this purpose anymore.

Anonymous (a regular commenter) caught that and commented on it. Thanks to his pointing that out I only looked like a schmuck for about an hour.

NOW -- onto this month's report.

From Bloomberg:

Both incomes and spending gained 0.6 percent last month from January, the Commerce Department said today in Washington, twice the gains anticipated by economists. The report's price gauge tied to spending patterns and excluding food and energy rose 0.3 percent from the prior month.

Growth in wages and employment means consumers have money to help offset rising gasoline prices and weakening home values. At the same time, the higher-than-expected price report gives Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who this week described inflation as his chief concern, less room to reduce rates should the economy falter.

Looking at the numbers in the report, we have some interesting developments.

At an annual rate, the quarterly figures for consumer spending at an annual rate on durable goods was a lackluster 1.6% in the 4th quarter. That follows as an annual increase of 18.6%, -.9 and and increase of 5.3%
in the 1st - 3rd quarter of 2006. Assuming that consumers purchase durable goods when they are feeling confident (usually because these purchases involve longer-term financing) these numbers may indicate a decrease on overall consumer confidence.

Once again, the personal savings rate was negative for February. This trend has been in place for a long time now and it indicates the US consumer continues to spend more than he makes. If the US economy has a bad recession, this lack of savings could be a real problem.