WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. consumer spending fell in July, with a drop in auto purchases accounting for most of the weakness. Income growth also slowed.<br />
Consumer spending edged down 0.1 percent last month after a 0.4 percent increase in June, the Commerce Department reported Friday. It was the first decline in spending since January. Income growth slowed to 0.2 percent in July, the weakest showing in seven months.<br />
The fall in spending came primarily from a decline in auto sales, which took a breather in July after posting big gains in recent months, although spending in other areas was also weak.<br />
Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, so it needs to recover for the economy to keep its momentum in the second half of the year.<br />
Economists had expected spending would slow in July based on reports of weak retail sales, but they said the slowdown should be temporary given the fact that job growth has been so strong. The combination of rising incomes from more people working and falling gas prices, which will give consumers more to spend on other items, is expected to lift spending in coming months.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.