Consumer spending jumps in July, beating expectations amid recession fears

Consumer spending jumps in July, beating expectations amid recession fears
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Consumer spending rose sharply last month, according to federal data released Thursday, a positive sign for the U.S. economy amid rising fears of a recession. 

U.S. spending on retail and dining services rose 0.7 percent in July, according to the Commerce Department’s advance estimate of monthly consumer spending, well above the 0.3 percent increase widely expected by analysts.

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The surprise jump in consumer spending is one of the few sunny signals from the U.S. economy, which appears to be slowing under the weight of President TrumpDonald John TrumpLawmakers prep ahead of impeachment hearing Democrats gear up for high-stakes Judiciary hearing Warren says she made almost M from legal work over past three decades MORE’s trade war and global economic uncertainty.

Roughly 70 percent of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) is driven by consumer spending, which has not yet been restrained by Trump’s tariffs. Trump on Tuesday delayed the effective date on a tranche of new tariffs on Chinese goods from Sept. 1 to Dec. 15, saying it was to prevent a drag on holiday sales.

While the consumer sector has remained resilient, the mounting costs of Trump’s trade battles with China and Europe have dissuaded businesses from investing and expanding in the U.S. and abroad. 

GDP growth has slowed throughout 2019, slumping to just 2.1 percent year-over-year in the second quarter. While vibrant consumer spending and steady job gains have sustained the economy, business investment has fallen in the face of global economic storm clouds.

Yields for long-term U.S. Treasury bonds have slipped below return rates for shorter-term bonds throughout the week, raising fears of an impending recession. When yields on 10-year bonds fall blow yields for two-year bonds, as they did Wednesday, the economy typically retracts within 12 to 18 months.

The inversion of the yield curve, which indicates investors fleeing to safety, spooked global financial markets Wednesday. U.S. stocks suffered their worst losses of 2019, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 800 points.

Investors were also rattled Wednesday by dour economic data from Germany showing its economy shrinking a 17-year low in industrial activity. 

Trump has disavowed any role in the global economic slowdown, even as economists point to his trade war as a prime source of uncertainty and rising costs. Instead, the president has blamed the Federal Reserve for not cutting interest rates faster and the news media for exacerbating fears about the economy.

"The Fake News Media is doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election," Trump tweeted Thursday. "The problem they have is that the economy is way too strong and we will soon be winning big on Trade, and everyone knows that, including China!"