Consumers Pay More for Goods in August

Consumers pay more for goods in August, led by higher gas prices.

Higher gas prices are crimping consumer spending and slowing the already-weak U.S. economy. And they could get worse in the coming months.

The Federal Reserve this week took steps to boost economic growth. But those stimulus measures are also pushing oil prices up. If gas prices follow, consumers will have less money to spend elsewhere.

Consumers increased their spending at retail businesses by 0.9 percent in August, the Commerce Department reported Friday. But that was largely because they paid more for gas. Excluding the impact of gas prices and a sizable increase in auto sales, retail sales rose just 0.1 percent.

Perhaps more telling is where Americans spent less. Consumers cut back on clothing, electronics and at general merchandise outlets — discretionary purchases that typically signal confidence in the economy.

Gas prices have risen more than 50 cents per gallon in the past two months. The national average was $3.87 a gallon on Friday.

Ernst August of Brunswick & bride (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

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