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Consumer Spending Matters to Economy

Economists and market analysts often keep a close eye on trends related to consumer activity. If consumer spending is strong, it can be an indication that most Americans have a high level of confidence in the direction of the economy. The total amount of consumer spending isn’t the only measure people keep an eye on. The types of expenditures can help determine how high consumer confidence may be at any given time. For example, if sales of luxury goods (expensive cars, jewelry) are lagging and people are putting more money into necessities like food, shelter and clothing, it may not reflect a strong vote of confidence about consumer expectations.

The data on spending plays an important role in how businesses and government agencies plan for the future. If consumers show a high level of confidence, businesses are more likely to boost spending as well to try to capitalize on the opportunity for increased sales. By contrast, if consumers are cautious about spending, businesses may invest less and government policymakers have, at times, chosen to provide stimulus through tax cuts or increased spending to help give the economy a boost.

Consumer spending trends also have a big impact on monetary policy, which is directed by the Fed. If consumer spending is lagging, the Fed can decide to reduce interest rates and take other steps to help jump-start household and business spending. If consumers are spending too much too quickly, it might signal that inflation could become a threat. The Fed may take steps, such as raising interest rates, to try and control economic growth.