(Bloomberg Business) — Everybody just relax: Last quarter’s slowdown in consumer spending doesn’t spell gloom and doom. There are hints that households are again ready to unleash the pent-up buying power spurred by low gasoline prices.
So says an early look at last month’s consumer spending data from Visa Inc., which released figures Thursday as part of a new quarterly report.
Retail sales excluding automobiles and gas stations increased 4.5 percent in April from the same time in 2014, the figures show. While that’s a touch below the 5.3 percent gain in March, the pace has stabilized at a higher rate than last year and the kinds of items Americans are buying are keeping Wayne Best, Visa’s chief economist, buoyant that consumers are ready to open their wallets a bit more.
“What I see in the data this month are some signs of some discretionary purchases starting to pick up,” Best said in an interview. People are “starting to free up some of that savings that they’ve been enjoying in the gas-price windfall and starting to spend it.”
Spending at hotels jumped 9.4 percent last month from a year earlier, its fastest pace since November. Purchases at electronics, appliance and furniture stores showed their strongest gain in three months. Restaurant sales, which have been running hot for quite a while, also hit a three-month high.