Personal Income, Spending Up in May

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that U.S. personal income was up $58.8 billion, or 0.4 percent, in May compared with April.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis reported on Thursday that U.S. personal income was up $58.8 billion, or 0.4 percent, in May compared with April. personal consumption expenditures—or PCE, as the government calls people out buying things—increased $18.3 billion, or 0.2 percent, month-over-month.

It turns out, however, that the increase in spending was due to rising prices, even though inflation is still fairly modest. Real PCE—PCE adjusted to remove price changes—decreased 0.1 percent in May, compared with a decrease of 0.2 percent in April.

The PCE price index increased 0.2 percent in May, the same increase as in April, and excluding energy and food, the month-over-month increase was also 0.2 percent. Compared with a year earlier, the May 2014 price index for PCE was up 1.8 percent, or roughly the same as the CPI. Take food and energy out of the equation, and the PCE price index was up 1.5 percent in May 2014 compared with May 2013.

Mortgage delinquency rates edge down

Freddie Mac said on Thursday that the single-family serious delinquency rate for mortgages that it owns or insures declined from 2.15 percent in April to 2.1 percent in May. The current rate is down from 2.85 percent compared with May 2013, and is in fact the lowest rate since January 2009; the GSE’s serious delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 4.2 percent.

According to the company’s reckoning, “serious delinquencies” involve mortgage loans that are “three monthly payments or more past due or in foreclosure.” Such loans are rarely cured with back payments, but rather end up in foreclosure or a short sale. The “normal” rate for serious delinquencies—the prerecession average—is about 1 percent, so the current rate is still elevated.

Separately this week, Freddie Mac released its Multi-Indicator Market Index (MiMi), which tracks the U.S. housing market. According to MiMi, most housing markets remain weak despite declining mortgage delinquencies, improving local employment, house price gains, and attractive mortgage rates.

The national MiMi value stands at -3.01 points, indicating a weak housing market overall with only a slight improvement (+0.05 points) from March to April and a three-month trend change of (+0.07 points), which is considered flat. However, on a year-over-year basis, the U.S. housing market has improved by 0.65 points as reflected in the national MiMi, according to the GSE.

Wall Street had a modest down day on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average off 21.38 points, or 0.13 percent. The S&P 500 was down 0.12 percent and the Nasdaq declined a scant 0.02 percent.