CME: Improved Consumer Incomes Expected in Coming Months

US - The Department of Commerce released its advance estimate on the performance of the US economy on Friday. The top-line number, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was up 1.2 per cent from the prior quarter.
calendar icon 2 August 2016
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According to consensus estimates, the expectation was for a 2.6 per cent gain. Consumer spending was a stalwart of the positive growth measure, gaining 4.2 per cent from the prior quarter.

Digging deeper, with a focus on food oriented spending, food and beverages purchased for off-premises consumption (government lingo for grocery stores, et. al.) increased by 1.4 per cent from the prior quarter and was up 2.2 per cent from a year earlier.

In absolute terms, Spring 2016 spending was up 14.7 billion dollars (seasonally adjusted annual rate) from the prior quarter, the biggest quarter-to-quarter increase since the Summer of 2013.

For comparison purposes, grocery store sales data from the retail sales report released by the government at mid-month showed Spring quarter sales up 2.0 per cent from a year earlier.

Consumer spending for food-away-from-home falls into the category of spending for food services and accommodations within the gross domestic product accounting procedures.

That category showed a 1 per cent increase from the prior quarter and was up 5.2 per cent from a year earlier. That compares with a 5.6 per cent gain reported in the retail sales report for food service and drinking place establishments.

The quarter-to-quarter gain in spending for this category of gross domestic product was the smallest since the Winter of 2014.

The Restaurant Performance Index for June 2016 that was released by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) on Friday mirrored the trends in government measures of industry conditions.

The reading on current conditions stood at 100.3, down 0.3 per cent from the prior month. The index also declined in May, but was up from March to April. Values over 100 are supposed to signal periods of expansion while values less than 100 signal contraction.

The NRA also provides an Expectations Index of member perceptions. It declined by a similar amount as the current conditions monitor.

The components of the index showed declines related to same-store sales, staffing and capital expenditures, but an improvement in expectations for overall business conditions. The primary reason that GDP growth during the Spring quarter came up short of expectations was due to a liquidation in product inventories. This was the first decline in inventories since the Summer of 2011.

Final sales of domestic product during the quarter increased by 211 billion dollars, the biggest quarterly increase in a year. A significant portion of those sales was filled from inventory instead of current quarter production activity.

Inventory liquidation usually accompanies the onset of economic recessions, but not always. For example, the inventory decline of mid-2011 was followed by sizeable inventory restocking that provided an additional boost to economic growth through late 2011 and 2012.

The gain in consumer spending and encouraging trends in exports of US goods, which expanded by the most on a quarter-to-quarter basis since the second quarter of 2014, provide reason for inventory rebuilding.

Trends in hiring reported in the Labor Department report issued in early July are supportive of improving consumer incomes in coming months. Wages and salaries during the second quarter increased by 48 billion dollars on a seasonally adjusted annual rate basis from the prior quarter. Wages and salaries during the first quarter of 2016 declined by 10 billion dollars from the last quarter of 2015.

These gains in employee compensation should support additional growth in sales at grocery stores and the food service sector through the remainder of the 2016. Spending for food away-from-home in recent years has tended to get a boost when spending on gasoline and other energy products decline.

Gasoline and energy product spending during the Spring 2016 quarter increased by 16 billion dollars, the biggest quarter-to-quarter increase since the Spring of 2011. Lower crude oil and gasoline prices during the last month should be a precursor of lower gasoline spending this quarter which could be supportive of a rebound in foodservice sales growth this summer.

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