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US Consumer Spending Declines For Third Consecutive Month, Down 5 Of Past 7 Months

There is (double) seasonally-adjusted, goal-seeked and revised (since 1976) consumer spending data as reported by the government and meant to validate administration policies, and then there is Gallup's polling of 15,217 US adults who are asked to self-report on their daily spending patterns.

For those who prefer unbiased, accurately reported data, it should come as no surprise to those who have been observing the recent swoon in the economy, that according to Gallup data, July was the third month in a row in which the average American spent less than they did in the same month a year ago, confirming that the US economy is if not in a recession then certainly no longer growing.

Furthermore, as the chart below shows and confirms the already week retail spending data, of the 7 months in 2015, 5 have seen a decline in consumer spending year over year.

 

The July Y/Y decline of $3, was also the largest decline for the mid-summer month since 2008. Also, the $91 July self-reported daily spend was $13, or more than 10%, lower compared to what Gallup survey respondents said they spent just before the financial crisis, when the number was $104. July spending has yet to top his pre-recession print.

 

More details from the actual report:

Gallup's daily spending measure asks Americans to estimate the total amount they spent "yesterday" in restaurants, gas stations, stores or online -- not counting home, vehicle or other major purchases, or normal monthly bills -- to provide an indication of Americans' discretionary spending. The July 2015 average is based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews with more than 15,000 U.S. adults.

 

Americans' reported spending estimates moved little between 2009 and 2012, after the global financial crisis. By late 2012, the metric began to rise and continued to do so into 2013. Since then, it has hovered near the $90 mark, compared with much lower averages closer to $70 from 2009-2012.

 

In past years, spending has changed little from June to July -- the largest increase was $5 in 2011. There were slightly smaller increases of $3 in 2012 and 2014.

 

Gallup's conclusion will come as a surprise only to the most ivory tower-wrapped tenured economists, permabulls and, of course, Fed employees:

The last few months have not seen changes in Americans' reported spending, but this isn't unusual for the middle of the year. The U.S. economy itself has not seen significant growth this year, as GDP grew by 2.3% in the second quarter after growing slightly in the first quarter...  Though gas prices remain lower than they were a year ago, which had boosted Americans' confidence in the economy, this does not seem to have had much effect on Americans' overall spending.

Why is consumer spending, especially on the margin, so important? Because it dictates 70% of the direction of US GDP. And with 5 out of 7 months now posting Y/Y declines, one wonders just where is this 2.5% (and declining) consensus GDP growth going to come from?