Consumers Kept Spending in September, as Inflation Held Steady

American consumers spent at a robust clip last month, fresh data showed, as the economy continued to chug along even after more than a year and a half of Federal Reserve interest rates increases.

The Fed’s policy moves have been intended to slow demand in order to tamp down inflation. Price increases have been slowing down: Friday’s Personal Consumption Expenditures report also showed that overall inflation held steady at 3.4 percent in September.

That was in line with what economists had expected, and is down from a peak of 7.1 percent in the summer of 2022. And after stripping out volatile food and fuel for a clearer sense of the underlying inflation trend, a closely-watched core inflation measure eased slightly on an annual basis.

Still, Fed officials aim for 2 percent inflation, so the current pace is still much faster than their goal.

The question confronting policymakers now is whether inflation can slow the rest of the way at a time when consumer spending remains so strong. Businesses may find that they can charge more if shoppers remain willing to open their wallets. Friday’s report showed that consumer spending climbed 0.7 percent from the previous month, and 0.4 percent after adjusting for inflation. Both numbers exceeded economist forecasts.

The strong spending figures are likely not enough to spur Fed officials to react immediately: Policymakers are widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged at their meeting next week, which wraps up on Nov. 1. But such solid momentum could keep them wary if it persists.

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