Today’s Personal Income and Outlays report shows personal income and consumer spending both rose by 0.5%.
The same report shows year-over-year core PCE (Personal Consumption Expenditures), the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, jumped to 1.7% from 1.4%.
Bloomberg Econoday says a March rate hike “may be a serious topic of discussion” as a result of the report.
There’s plenty of life in the consumer. Personal income jumped 0.5 percent in January as did consumer spending, both readings higher than expected. Also higher than expected are the report’s inflation readings especially the core PCE which rose 0.3 percent for a year-on-year plus 1.7 percent.
Details are solidly positive with components on the income side led by wages & salaries, up a very strong 0.6 percent for the third large gain of the last four months. And consumers didn’t draw from savings on their January shopping spree, with the savings rate unchanged at a very solid 5.2 percent.
Components on the spending side are led by durable goods which jumped 1.2 percent and reflect strong vehicle sales in the month. Spending on services rose 0.6 percent in the month.
But the big story of the report is the core PCE, especially the year-on-year rate which is up from 1.4 percent to 1.7 percent and is pointing confidently toward the Fed’s 2 percent line. Total prices, which include food and energy, rose only 1 percent but the year-on-year rate for this reading has been on a tear, moving from about zero late last year to plus 1.3 percent in January.
Economic news outside of the consumer has been soft but today’s report is a reminder that the nation’s most important supporter is alert and in the driver’s seat. A strong consumer, who is benefiting from a strong labor market, together with the upward pivot for inflation will not make policy makers comfortable at next month’s FOMC where a rate hike, though long dismissed, may be a serious topic of discussion.
March Rate Hike?
I scoff at the prospects of a March rate hike. So does the Fed Fund futures.
The Fed does not go against the market view except with surprise cuts, never surprise hikes.
The market expectation for a Fed hike in March is 8.3%. This is an easy call: The Fed will not hike in March. I doubt the Fed hikes this year.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock