Consumer spending rises on higher prices

Empty wallet

JEREMY HOBSON: Now let's get to this morning's numbers from the Commerce Department. We're making more money on the whole. Personal incomes were up 0.5 percent in March. We're also spending more money on things like food and gas. Consumer spending rose two-tenths of a percent.

What does all this mean for the U.S. economy as a whole? For that, let's turn to our regular Friday guest, Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial with us live now from New York. Good morning Chris.

CHRIS LOW: Good morning.

HOBSON: So what do these numbers say to you?

LOW: Well, yeah it's a pretty complex picture but here's what's going on. We have some decent growth in income. We also had some decent growth in spending. But underneaths that, we had a pretty big increase in inflation as well. So, people made more money, they spent more money, but they didn't get as much stuff with that money.

HOBSON: And is there more to it than just the earnings that are coming in from our paychecks?

LOW: Yeah, actually there's a lot more to it. And one of the things that we see in these numbers is growing income inequality. When you look at the rise in income, which was 0.5 -- in that wage and salary income was only 0.3 percent. So those who were rely on their jobs for their income, they're not experiencing as much growth as others.

HOBSON: And when you look at the spending side of things Chris, the dollar doesn't appear to be going as far and a lot of people look at that and they say that's because of all the printing of money that's going on down at the Federal Reserve.

LOW: Yeah. You down the Fed would say otherwise, but I think whether it's directly because the Fed is printing money to buy bonds or if it's because investors don't like that the Fed is printing money to buy bonds and therefore are fleeing dollar investments. The affect is the same. And the dollar has been weak as long as the Fed has been pursuing this program. Weaker dollar means more inflation. The good news there is that the program is just about done. And we heard in Bernanke's press conference earlier this week, the Fed really doesn't have any interest in pursuing this kind of policy going forward.

HOBSON: Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial, thanks so much as always.

LOW: You're welcome, thank you.

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