Consumers, already hard hit by a sharp collapse in home prices, are facing renewed challenges from higher gasoline costs, Federal Reserve Governor Elizabeth Duke said on Tuesday.
In remarks focused primarily on financial literacy, Duke offered some flavor of her views on the economy. Her tone was not very optimistic, suggesting she is unlikely to begin pressing for interest rate hikes any time soon.
Family incomes have not kept pace with rising costs, and many families, particularly those with low-to-moderate incomes, are actually facing the decision between buying gas to drive long distances to work and paying their mortgage, Duke said in the remarks, which were prepared for delivery at a conference sponsored by the Boston Fed.
Weaker house prices and the resulting difficulties in selling a home have made it harder for Americans to move in search of work, she said, thus further reducing demand for home ownership.
Foreclosures remain high in these areas where the cost of driving to work has become so great, she added.
After a retreat in crude oil prices, U.S. gasoline costs fell to $3.85 a gallon in the latest week, the lowest level in five weeks, the Energy Department said on Monday. Although prices are down 11.1 cents from the previous week, the national gasoline price is still $1.06 higher than a year ago.
The U.S. economy appears to have hit a soft patch in recent months after several quarters of strong growth. U.S. gross domestic product expanded at an annualized rate of just 1.8 percent in the first quarter.