Household spending perked up in November as American consumers loosened their purse strings ahead of the holiday season, according to official data inadvertently released late Tuesday. Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the U.S. economy, rose by the most in three months, the data showed.
Spending rose 0.3 percent to $12.43 trillion compared to same period last year, matching the consensus forecast of a Bloomberg survey, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce report. The figures were released more than 12 hours ahead of schedule on the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) website.
“There has been an inadvertent release of some of BEA’s personal consumption expenditure data for November as well as for previous months via BEA’s API (application programming interface),” the bureau said in a statement on its website Tuesday, though it did not elaborate on how the gaffe occurred.
The November rise in consumer spending was reportedly propelled by steady hiring, cheap gas prices, purchases of cars and strong retail sales. “The numbers are a little bit stronger, and supportive of at least 2 percent growth in the fourth quarter,” Mike Englund, chief economist at Action Economics in Boulder, Colorado, told Bloomberg.
The U.S. economy, which is expected to grow at a rate of 2 percent this year, recorded a gross domestic product expansion marginally below 2 percent in the July to September quarter, revised GDP estimates released separately on Tuesday showed. The GDP growth rate for the third quarter also marks a sharp slowing from the 3.9 percent pace recorded in the second quarter, according to the Commerce Department report.
The U.S. Federal Reserve has pinned its hopes on steady increases in consumer spending to boost the economy, as policymakers believe the economy is resilient enough to withstand a rate hike announced last week.
However, some industry experts are skeptic whether consumers alone can shoulder the burden of propping up the world’s largest economy at a time of flagging global growth.
“Consumption is a big piece of it, and it’s chugging along,” Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina, told Bloomberg. At the same time, “it’s hard to be really enthusiastic about the outlook for trade and business investment,” amid weak growth overseas, he said.