U.S. consumer spending rose at the fastest pace in three months in June, providing momentum for the economy going into the second half of the year.
Consumer spending increased 0.4 percent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis following slower increases of 0.3 percent in May and 0.1 percent in April, the Commerce Department said Friday.
That was the best showing since a 0.8 percent surge in spending in March, which reflected a rebound after a harsh winter had kept consumers from the malls and auto showrooms.
Consumer spending is closely watched because it accounts for two-thirds of economic activity.
Americans saw earnings rise 0.4 percent in June, matching the May increase. Income growth has lagged in this recovery but has shown recent signs of some acceleration.
Paul Dales, a senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, said the strong gains in employment over the past six months should support stronger consumer spending in the second half of this year. He predicted that consumer spending will increase at an annual rate of 3 percent in the next six months, an increase from a more modest 2.3 percent average growth rate in spending over the last two years.
A key measure of inflation favored by the Federal Reserve increased a modest 0.2 percent in June, slightly below the 0.3 percent May increase. Over the past 12 months, this measure of inflation is up 1.6 percent, still below the Fed's target of 2 percent but above the lows of the past two years. Excluding food and energy, prices are up an even slower 1.5 percent over the past 12 months.
The absence of inflationary pressures has given the Fed the leeway to focus on keeping interest rates at ultra-low levels to foster stronger job growth although this inflation gauge has moved up from the lows of the past two years.
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