08/03/2015

U.S. consumer spending in June advanced at its slowest pace in fourth months as demand for automobiles softened, suggesting the economy lost some momentum at the end of the second quarter.

But the moderation in consumer spending could be temporary as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Nissan Motor Co Ltd said on Monday their U.S. July sales outstripped expectations on the strength of sport utility vehicles sales.

Consumer spending rose 0.2 percent after a downwardly revised 0.7 percent increase in May, the Commerce Department said. Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, was previously reported to have advanced 0.9 percent in May.

June's increase was in line with economists' expectations and the data was included in last week's second-quarter gross domestic product report, which showed consumer spending expanding at a 2.9 percent annual rate and the overall economy growing at a 2.3 percent pace.

While the tepid consumer spending suggests less vigor in the economy heading into the third quarter, any slowdown is likely to be mitigated by a strengthening housing sector and tightening labor market, which are boosting household wealth.

FCA and Nissan were the first major automakers to report U.S. July sales, which analysts have forecast rising about 3 percent from a year ago. FCA forecast sales will come in above that estimate.

Prices for longer-dated U.S. government debt slipped after the data, while U.S. stock index futures nudged lower. The dollar was slightly stronger against a basket of currencies.

The Federal Reserve last week described the economy as expanding "moderately," upgraded its view of the labor market and said housing had shown "additional" improvement.

The Fed's assessment left the door open for a possible interest rate hike in September, which would be the first increase in nearly a decade.

In June, spending on long-lasting manufactured goods fell 1.3 percent, with purchases of motor vehicles accounting for most of the decrease, which reversed May's increase. Outlays on services like utilities rose 0.4 percent.

When adjusted for inflation, consumer spending was unchanged after increasing 0.4 percent in May.

Personal income rose 0.4 percent in June for a third straight month. With income gains outpacing spending, the saving rate increased to 4.8 percent from 4.6 percent in May.

Inflation pressures remained benign. A price index for consumer spending rose 0.2 percent after gaining 0.3 percent in May. In the 12 months through June, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index rose 0.3 percent.

Excluding food and energy, prices edged up 0.1 percent for the third straight month. The so-called core PCE price index rose 1.3 percent in the 12 months through June. It has increased by the same margin every month since January.

Inflation is running below the Fed's 2 percent target. 

By Lucia Mutikani- Reuters (Additional reportig by Bernie Woodall in Detroit; Editing by Paul Simao)