Personal income in February rose by 0.4% month over month in February, the Commerce Department reported today. That matched economists’ expectations.
But personal spending notched only a small gain of 0.1%, below expectations for a 0.2% increase.
The Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index, the Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation measure, rose 0.1% month over month and the core PCE Price Index, which excludes food and energy prices, climbed 0.2%. That took the annualized increase in the core PCE Price Index to 1.8%, barely below the Fed’s target of 2% inflation.
The combination of price increases and muted growth in nominal personal spending meant that real personal spending–that is spending after inflation–actually fell by 0.1% in the month. That follows on a revised 0.2% month drop in real spending in January. Economists had been projecting a 0.2% increase in spending for February.
All this means that the U.S. economy in the first quarter of 2017 is likely to chug along at something like the 2.1% growth rate reported in the fourth quarter. But that an increase in the pace of growth is unlikely with consumers watching their spending so carefully.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis is scheduled to report its first estimate of first quarter GDP growth on April 28. That report will be the first on economic growth in the Trump administration.