U.S. consumer spending down 1% in December
U.S. consumer spending contracted more than anticipated in December 2008, declining by 1.0%. However, this number is a look into the past and does little to help predict how spending will trend going forward.
My read on future trends has much to do with trend consumption patterns an debt. On Friday, I reported that GDP showed a sharp deterioration in durable goods spending. In that post, I mentioned that the unsustainable increase in consumption as a percentage of GDP is moving back toward trend. Moreover, this consumption has been partly debt-fuelled; Debt to GDP levels have also increased markedly over the past decades to unsustainable levels. Now, that we are in a sharp downturn where credit is restricted, this pattern cannot continue.
Therefore, I see this report, in conjunction with these other data points as confirming the trend toward increased savings, increased debt reduction and lower spending in the U.S. going forward. Given the level of job losses is still increasing, we should expect consumption to decrease even more going forward.
See the Bloomberg video below for another take on the numbers and their implication for the broader economy by Carl Weinberg of High Frequency Economics. You should note he has some scary words on Japan and their predicament but more upbeat words on China.