Americans' daily self-reports of their discretionary spending averaged $91 in May for a second month. Spending reports last month were not as high as the same month a year ago, when average daily spending reached a six-year high of $98. The latest monthly figure is higher than what Americans spent each May from 2009 through 2013. By contrast, Americans spent an average of $114 in May 2008 prior to the global financial meltdown later that year that both deepened and prolonged the U.S. recession that started in late 2007.
The stagnation in Americans' spending may be related to gas prices, which continued to rise last month -- though they are expected to plateau and eventually dip as the year progresses. Confidence in the economy also dipped, with lower weekly measures in May than in April. Gallup has found that Americans' perceptions of the economy are related to gas prices, and what they pay at the pump certainly influences how much they spend overall and how much they have left for discretionary purchases after they take care of the basics. If gas prices do stabilize, this may enable Americans to spend more on other things.
Self-reported consumer spending is a new behavioral economics measure based on the individual reports of a random sample of Americans. The focus is on consumer discretionary spending, including on basics such as gas purchases at the pump and more optional impulse purchases online or in stores. Excluded are routine spending, including the consumer's monthly bills, and big purchase items such as automobiles and housing.
By tracking consumers' reports of how much they spend on a daily basis, investors can monitor not only overall discretionary spending trends, but also the impact on Americans' spending patterns of everything from the day of the week to special events.
Gallup's self-reported Consumer Spending measure is a real-time indicator of Americans' discretionary spending. The behavioral characteristics of this new measure provide early and unique insights into how consumer spending is responding to various changes in the business environment.
Further, the spending measure provides estimates on a continuing basis, giving an early read on what the government eventually reports for retail sales roughly two weeks after the close of each month. Overall, Gallup's behavioral-based spending measure allows business and investment decisions to be based on essentially real-time consumer spending information.
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