U.S. consumer spending, housing data bolster economic outlook

U.S. consumer spending accelerated in December as households bought motor vehicles and cold weather boosted demand for utilities amid a rise in wages, pointing to sustained domestic demand that could spur economic growth in early 2017. There are also signs that inflation firmed last month. The growth outlook was further bolstered by other data on Monday showing a jump in contracts to buy previously owned homes. A strengthening economy, rising price pressures and tightening labor market could allow the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates at least three times this year. “Consumers keep on spending to help the economy grow and inflation is stirring,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York. “The economy is at full employment. Time for the Fed to hoist sail on interest rates.” The Commerce Department said consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased 0.5 percent after gaining 0.2 percent in November. The rise was the biggest in three months and in line with economists’ expectations.

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