Consumer spending sank in September amid recession fears

Consumer spending sank in September amid recession fears
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U.S. consumer spending sunk in September by the lowest rate in seven months, according to data released Wednesday by the Commerce Department.

Sales of retail goods and food services dropped 0.3 percent last month as consumers tightened their belts during a stretch of intense anxiety about a potential recession.

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While the U.S. economy has held steady amid global turmoil, it has grown and added jobs at a slower rate throughout 2019. Rising trade tensions and fading foreign demand for American goods have also stunted U.S. business investment, manufacturing activity and exports.

The state of the economy is crucial to President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE’s reelection bid as he seeks to woo swing voters with a solid job market and steady growth. An economic slowdown could be politically devastating to Trump, particularly in areas of the country yet to recover from the 2008 recession. 

Despite the looming threat of a deeper slowdown, the U.S. boasts the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years. The jobless rate sank to 3.5 percent in September as the economy added 136,000 workers, though wage growth slumped to an annualized gain of 2.9 percent.

Economists closely watch movements in consumer spending, which makes up 70 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, as a tool to forecast economic growth. Despite September’s decline, consumer spending in August was revised up to a gain of 0.6 percent, and an annualized gain of 4 percent.

U.S. economic optimism also rose 3 percent in early October, according to the University of Michigan consumer sentiment survey, showing a return to a sunny outlook after recession fears peaked in August.

While the U.S economy tends to perform best in the fourth quarter, looming tariffs on Chinese imports could pose a serious blow to consumers spending early next year.

Trump is set to impose tariffs on $160 billion in Chinese-made consumer goods by Dec. 15, raising costs on articles of clothing, shoes, toys, electronics and other crucial imports. The tariffs pose the most direct economic threat to consumers from Trump's trade war with China.