Consumers Spend a Little More, Save a Little Less

Consumers went on a (very) small splurge in July, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, marked by a 0.4 percent increase in spending compared to June.

August 31, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user katutaide

Consumers went on a (very) small splurge in July, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, marked by a 0.4 percent increase in spending compared to June. Personal income increased only 0.2 percent, so some of that spending probably came from savings.

Sure enough, consumers saved an average 6.2 percent of their income in June, but only 5.9 percent in July. That’s still a lot higher than the average savings rate during 2007, just before the recession, which was 2.1 percent. This understandable reluctance to spend is cited by some economists as an anchor dragging the recovery down. But then again, plenty of economists regularly decried Americans’ propensity not to save during the early and mid-2000s.

The other recent news from the personal finance front is that total U.S. credit-card debt has dropped to its lowest level in about eight years, according to TransUnion. The rate of cardholders more than 90 days past due is down as well, to 0.92 percent in 2Q10, compared with 1.17 percent during the same quarter in 2009.

Small Business Treads Water: Intuit Index

The Intuit Small-Business Employment Index, a study of 57,000 small businesses (less than 20 employees) released on Monday, found that U.S. small businesses increased hiring 0.1 percent in August, which translates to about 26,000 new jobs. Better than nothing, but not as robust as the pace of hiring during the first few months of 2010, when small-biz hiring increased about 0.2 percent per month.

“These small-business figures show signs that the recovery is not progressing as fast as we would like,” Susan Woodward, an economist who helped Intuit create the index, noted in a statement (that sounded something like Ben Bernanke). “In most years, August is a month of unambiguous employment growth, but not this year.”

Other indicators studied by Intuit pointed to an uneasy stasis for the economy, at least as far as small businesses are concerned. Salaries and wages are holding steady, and so are hours worked.

The Oracle at 80

Warren Buffet turned 80 on Monday, and still no word on who will eventually succeed the Oracle of Omaha at the helm of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., probably because he’s publicly stated that he’d like to “work past 100.” The Geico Gecko is considered a (very) long-shot possibility.

Wall Street took a beating on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 140.92 points, or 1.39 percent, which is with spitting distance of 10,000 but still above that point. The S&P 500 lost 1.47 percent and the Nasdaq declined 1.56 percent.