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Wednesday, November 25, 2015 12:49 PM

Personal Income and Outlays: Income Hits Estimates, Spending Disappoints; Optimism Reins Supreme

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Today's Personal Income and Outlays shows consumer spending once again on the "soft side" despite solid income growth.

Income was in-line with expectations of a 0.4% gain. However, spending came in with an anemic  0.1% gain month-over-month. The Econoday Consensus Estimate for consumer spending was 0.3%, in a range of 0.2% to 0.5%, so economists once again were way overoptimistic.

Moreover, the core PCE (personal consumption expenditures) price index, the Fed's preferred inflation measure, came in at 0.0% whereas the consensus estimate was 0.2% in a range of 0.1% to 0.2%. The PCE price index was another big miss for economists.


The core PCE is the Fed's most important inflation reading and it is not showing rising pressure, coming in unchanged in October, vs an expected gain of 0.2 percent, with the year-on-year rate at 1.3 percent which is also unchanged. Consumer spending also proved soft, up only 0.1 percent vs expectations for a 0.3 percent gain. Spending shows flat readings across categories including only a small gain for services which usually are strong.

The income side is better, hitting expectations at a 0.4 percent gain with wages & salaries showing an outsized gain of 0.6 percent. And the outlook for future spending is solid with a strong 3 tenths rise in the savings rate to 5.6 percent.

Turning back to inflation readings, the overall PCE price index remains nearly dead flat in a reminder that fuel prices remain very low and should give a boost to durable spending during the holidays. The PCE price index is up only 0.1 percent, vs Econoday expectations for a 0.2 percent gain, with the year-on-year rate at a very telling and extremely low plus 0.2 percent.

Though income data in this report do point to consumer strength ahead, the spending data are not a strong start at all for the fourth quarter. These results, especially the core price readings, will not lift the odds for a December rate hike.

Recent History Of This Indicator

The core PCE price index is the Fed's favorite inflation reading and Econoday expectations are calling for a 0.2 percent gain in October in what would be substantial enough to further build expectations for a December rate hike. Readings on personal income and personal spending are also expected to rise, at respective consensus forecasts of plus 0.4 percent for the former, reflecting wage and workweek gains in the October employment report, and plus 0.3 percent for the latter in what, combined with steady incremental gains in service spending, would be in line with gains for core retail sales. 
Another Overoptimistic Forecast

All-in-all this was another hugely overoptimistic estimate by economists. Wage gains were in-line with expectations, but wage gains are easy to forecast given data that comes out of monthly job reports.

For more on perpetual overoptimism, please see Persistent Overoptimism Three Ways: Truckers, Fed Economists, Manufacturers

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

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