US: Personal Income and Outlays

Mon Jun 01 07:30:00 CDT 2015

Consensus Consensus Range Actual Previous Revised
Personal Income - M/M change 0.3% 0.0% to 0.5% 0.4% 0% 0.0%
Consumer Spending - M/M change 0.2% 0.1% to 0.4% 0.0% 0.4% 0.5%
PCE Price Index -- M/M change 0.1% 0.1% to 0.3% 0.0% 0.2% 0.2%
Core PCE price index - M/M change 0.2% 0.2% to 0.2% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1%
PCE Price Index -- Y/Y change 0.1% 0.3%
Core PCE price index - Yr/Yr change 1.2% 1.4%

The consumer started off the second quarter slowly, putting income into savings and not spending. Consumer spending was unchanged in April with deep declines in spending on both durable and nondurable goods, down 0.7 percent and down 0.5 percent respectively, offset by another incremental increase in spending on services of plus 0.2 percent. Personal income, boosted by rents and dividends, rose a solid 0.4 percent though the gain for wages & salaries was less strong at 0.2 percent. The savings rate rose 4 tenths in the month to 5.6 percent.

Inflation readings are very tame with the price index unchanged in the month and the core up only 0.1 percent. The core rate, unlike April's 1.8 percent core reading for the CPI where weightings on housing and medical costs are greater, is showing less pressure, down slightly to 1.2 percent. Overall prices are barely up at all year-on-year, at plus 0.1 percent.

The April retail sales report first signaled trouble for second-quarter spending that today's report confirms. The consumer, the economy's bread-and-butter right now given weakness in manufacturing, is sitting on their hands. This report pushes back the outlook for the Fed's first rate hike.

Market Consensus Before Announcement
Personal income and outlays are not expected to show too much life with income seen up a respectable 0.3 percent but outlays, held down by weak retail sales, seen on the soft side at plus 0.2 percent. Keep a close eye on price readings following the rise in the April core CPI. And the core PCE price index is expected to show some pressure, to plus 0.2 percent from a long run at 0.1 percent.

Personal income represents the income that households receive from all sources including wages and salaries, fringe benefits such as employer contributions of private pension plans, proprietors' income, income from rent, dividends and interest and transfer payments such as Social Security and unemployment compensation. Personal contributions for social insurance are subtracted from personal income.

Personal consumption expenditures are the major portion of personal outlays, which also include personal interest payments and transfer payments. Personal consumption expenditures are divided into durable goods, nondurable goods and services. These figures are the monthly analogues to the quarterly consumption expenditures in the GDP report, available in nominal and real (inflation-adjusted) dollars. Economic performance is more appropriately measured after the effects of inflation are removed.

Each month, the Bureau of Economic Analysis also compiles the personal consumption expenditure price index, also known as the PCE price index. This inflation index measures a basket of goods and services that is updated annually in contrast to the CPI, which measures a fixed basket.

The income and outlays data are another handy way to gauge the strength of the consumer sector in this economy and where it is headed. Income gives households the power to spend and/or save. Spending greases the wheels of the economy and keeps it growing. Savings are often invested in the financial markets and can drive up the prices of stocks and bonds. Even if savings simply go into a bank account, part of those funds typically is used by the bank for lending and therefore contributes to economic activity. In the past twenty years, the personal saving rate has diminished rapidly as consumers have spent a greater and greater share of their income. But that has reversed in part during the recession that began in 2008 as consumers have cut back on credit card use and have been rebuilding retirement accounts.

The consumption (outlays) part of this report is even more directly tied to the economy, which we know usually dictates how the markets perform. Consumer spending accounts for more than two-thirds of the economy, so if you know what consumers are up to, you'll have a pretty good handle on where the economy is headed. Investors can see how consumers are directing their spending, whether they are buying durable goods, nondurable goods or services. Needless to say, that's a big advantage for investors who determine which companies' shares they will buy.

The PCE price indexes have gained importance since the Fed announced a medium-term inflation goal of 2 percent based on the headline number on a year-on-year basis. The Fed forecasts inflation for both the headline PCE price index and the core rate (excluding food and energy).

Income is the major determinant of spending -- U.S. consumers spend roughly 95 cents of each new dollar. Consumer spending accounts directly for more than two-thirds of overall economic activity and indirectly influences capital spending, inventory investment and imports.

Increases (decreases) in income and consumption cause bond prices to fall (rally). As long as spending isn't inflationary, the stock market benefits because greater spending spurs corporate profits. Financial market participants pay somewhat less attention to personal consumption expenditures than to retail sales, which are released earlier in the month. However, they do closely monitor personal income and the PCE deflator.

Changes in personal income signal changes in consumer spending. For instance, a period of rapid income growth may signal future gains in personal consumption expenditures as well. Conversely, a period of declining income growth could signal an impending recession. While consumers often still must purchase necessities, discretionary purchases may decline, or moderate.

Consumers are more likely to increase spending when they see their stock portfolios increase in tandem with the stock market. When the stock market falls, spending is likely to decline because consumers feel less wealthy. Home prices and home equity have similar effects. Rising home prices boost the amount of equity consumers have in their homes. This allows access to Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) accounts. Plus consumers feel wealthier whether they have a HELOC account or not. When home prices decline, home equity falls and cuts into consumer spending.

Personal income is a comprehensive figure, but also incorporates taxes consumers must pay. By removing personal tax payments from personal income, we are left with disposable income. This is what consumers have left to spend on goods and services. Adjusting for inflation reveals growth in real disposable income.

On the inflation front, if PCE inflation is running below the Fed's goal of 2 percent inflation, that is seen as favorable toward Fed ease or neutral monetary policy. PCE inflation above 2 percent suggests that the Fed might be more inclined to raise policy rates.