Article courtesy of Wall Street Journal via “The Rundown”
Economists have loudly predicted that the U.S. economy will rebound in the second quarter after contracting in the first three months of the year. But after a strong March, the data in April were decidedly mixed: strong job growth and a surge in new-home construction versus falling exports, a decline in industrial production and a drop in overall consumer spending.
Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of economic output, so it’s a vital area to watch. We’ll get an initial broad look at Americans’ spending during May – and a hint about the second-quarter comeback’s strength or weakness – when the Commerce Department releases its report on retail sales on Thursday at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
If April’s slowdown in spending at retailers persists, hopes for a strong second quarter could be dimmed. A panel of economists from U.S. banks last week predicted gross domestic product will grow at a 3.8% seasonally adjusted annual rate this quarter. They assumed personal consumption would grow at a 3.3% pace in the second quarter, up from a 3.1% pace in the first quarter when a sharp slowdown in spending on physical goods was offset by increased spending on services like health care and household heating.
The Commerce Department’s report on personal income and outlays counts spending on both goods and services, while the retail-sales report only counts spending at retailers and food-services establishments like restaurants. The broader spending report for May will be out June 26, but the two indicators generally move together in terms of seasonally adjusted monthly percent changes.