Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

Lower gas prices not enough to lift U.S. economy

WASHINGTON — Cheaper gas has yet to cause consumers to spend enough on other goods to boost the slumping economy.

Americans barely increased their spending at retail businesses this spring, leading economists to predict slower economic growth in the April-June quarter.

But the news from a spate of government data Thursday wasn't all bad. Consumers spent more in May on cars, appliances and furniture — big purchases that help drive growth. Businesses continued to restock this spring at a healthy pace. And wholesale prices outside of gasoline costs remain stable, which means consumers can expect inflation to stay mild.

If gas prices stay low, Americans are likely to spend more freely this summer on other goods, from autos and furniture to electronics and vacations, that fuel economic growth.

"The continued fall in gasoline prices should support consumption by freeing up cash to be spent on other items," said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

Retail sales fell 0.2 percent in May and April, the Commerce Department said. It was the first back-to-back decline in two years. But overall sales were pulled down by a 2.2 percent decline in gasoline station sales, reflecting the lower prices. Excluding volatile gas station sales, retail sales grew just 0.1 percent in May.

Consumers reduced spending in May at building-supply stores, such as Home Depot, and general merchandise stores, a category that includes Walmart and Target. Auto sales rose solidly, one of the few positives in the report. Consumers also spent more on electronics, clothing and furniture.

In a separate report, the producer price index, a measure of wholesale prices, dropped 1 percent in May, the Labor Department said. That's the biggest decline since July 2009. It reflected a 9 percent fall in wholesale gas prices.

Modest wholesale inflation reduces pressure on manufacturers and retailers to raise prices. That helps keep consumer prices stable, which boosts buying power and drives growth.

A third report Wednesday showed that businesses restocked at a slightly faster rate in April than March.

When businesses step up restocking, they order more goods. That generally leads to increased factory production and higher growth. But further stockpile growth depends on increased spending by consumers. And economists worry that consumer spending may further weaken if hiring and pay don't pick up.

Workers' average hourly earnings rose just 1.7 percent in the 12 months that ended in May. That was below the pace of inflation during that period.

Comments
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Sales of condos and townhomes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 9.5 percent in March, hitting a median of $156,000. The price gain was prompted in part by a supply shortage, with sales down 7.5 percent amid a dwindling inventory. Statewide, sales also lag...
Published: 04/25/18
Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Pelicans will return to the pier in fanciful form.A California artist has been selected to create an enormous, red origami sculpture of a pelican that will serve as a metal perch for three more lifelike, but no less fanciful, imitati...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Q: I have become very disillusioned with my telecommuting job. I accepted this position about a year ago because I liked the idea of working from home. However, I now have so many assignments that I can barely keep up. I was recently given a huge pro...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

DUNEDIN — The Pinellas County Commission pulled the final trigger Tuesday on dedicating $41.7 million in bed taxes for upgrades to the Toronto Blue Jays’ stadium and spring training facilities, a pledge that amounts to covering more than half of the ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida small business owners say their top concern is a lack of skilled workers, according to a recent survey by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Workforce quality has been a recurring issue for small businesses, according to previous surveys. In th...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

TAMPA — The world’s biggest hotel company already has 29 properties in the Tampa Bay area, but its CEO says a plan to put more than 1,400 rooms in three Marriott-branded hotels within a few blocks of each other says something about how Tampa is evolv...
Published: 04/24/18
Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

If you’ve ever complained about other motorists on the road, you may have been justified. The Sunshine State ranked No. 8 on GasBuddy.com’s list of states with the most aggressive drivers."Our findings indicate that states with densely populated citi...
Published: 04/24/18
First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

Amazon is taking the growing curb-side delivery trend a step further — now shoppers don’t even have to be inside their cars to get their items.The online retailer announced Tuesday it has begun delivering packages to newer cars with OnStar service in...
Published: 04/24/18
Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

WASHINGTON — The company formerly known as Yahoo is paying a $35 million fine to resolve federal regulators’ charges that the online pioneer deceived investors by failing to disclose one of the biggest data breaches in internet history. The Securiti...
Published: 04/24/18