Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner with brokerage firm Meridian Equity Partners Inc., weighs in on Friday’s consumer spending report for April.
Consumers pulled back on spending in April for the first time in almost a year. According to a government report released Friday, consumer spending fell in April, disappointing economists who had forecast a rise.
Consumer spending fell 0.2 percent, the weakest reading since May last year, after edging up 0.1 percent in March, the Commerce Department said. Economists had expected a 0.1 percent gain in April.
Analysts worry the reading could point to a slowdown in economic activity as economists fear that tax hikes from the expiration of the payroll tax cuts and government spending cuts from the sequestration are going to weigh on consumer’s pocketbooks.
“I think people are just starting to be a little bit more sensitive as to where we’re going to be third-quarter, where we’re going to be fourth-quarter,” Corpina said. “The sun is still shining, I just think investors are still waiting for the clouds to come over, and feeling like it’s going to come over sooner than later,” he said.
Consumer spending accounts for nearly two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, and was held down by weak demand for utilities and a drop in receipts at gasoline stations on the back of a fall in gasoline prices at the pump.
Data on Thursday revealed the U.S. economy grew at a slightly slower pace than originally reported in the first quarter. According to revisions released by the Commerce Department on Thursday, U.S. gross domestic product rose at a 2.4 percent annual pace in the first three months of the year, which was down slightly from the 2.5 percent pace originally reported last month.
“Optimism is there because we’ve still had these same concerns that we’ve had for the last year, yet our market seems to continue to move higher, and we portray this picture that things are getting better. So I think once again it kind of wraps down into where are we with jobs. Where’s the unemployment number going to come out next week. How’s that really going to affect the sentiment. Because all this economic data leads to that one end road,” said Corpina.
Economists speculate that the Fed might be preparing to scale back its $85 billion a month of bond purchases after a Fed official recently commented that the central bank could begin easing up on its monetary stimulus this summer. However, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in a statement last week that premature tightening would endanger the recovery, and that more progress is needed before a stimulus pullback.
“I think the Fed is going to have to really evaluate when and how there’s going to be a pullback in this,” said Corpina. “They know what they’ve just slightly mentioned the word softening, or pulling back, and the market have gotten very edgy and volatile. So I think they learned a little bit of a lesson on their last statement to be very careful about what they say and how they say it, but still deliver the right message and accurate information,” he said.
Separate data released Friday revealed that Consumer sentiment hit its strongest reading in nearly six years in May. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment rose to 84.5 from 76.4 in April.
The most surprising data this morning was the Chicago PMI reading that surprised analysts after surging to 58.7 in May from 49.0 last month. Economists were expecting a much smaller increase to 50.0. The surge indicates that regional manufacturing in the Midwest expanded at a moderate pace in May after contracting slightly in April.