Reports yesterday on U.S. consumer spending, incomes and jobless claims eased concern that the economy is overheating, tempering speculation...

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Reports yesterday on U.S. consumer spending, incomes and jobless claims eased concern that the economy is overheating, tempering speculation that the Federal Reserve may need to accelerate interest-rate increases to thwart inflation.

Personal spending rose 0.5 percent in February while incomes rose a less-than-expected 0.3 percent, the Commerce Department said. The spending report showed that inflation stayed within the Fed’s predicted range, with prices excluding food and energy rising 1.6 percent in the 12 months through February. Increases in spending and incomes bolstered expectations the economy is expanding at the “solid pace” the Fed described last week.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department reported yesterday that the number of Americans seeking first-time jobless benefits jumped in the last weekly tally before today’s monthly jobs report.

First-time jobless claims unexpectedly rose to 350,000 last week, the highest since the week that ended Jan. 8, from 330,000, the Labor Department said in a report that was skewed by the early Easter holiday.

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The Commerce Department also reported yesterday that orders at U.S. factories rose less than forecast in February, restrained in part by a drop in demand for automobiles and appliances. The 0.2 percent increase to $380.4 billion trailed the predicted 0.5 percent median estimate in a Bloomberg News survey.

“The economy is good right now; last year it was great,” said William Zollars, chief executive officer at Yellow Roadway, the biggest U.S. trucker. “It’s pretty tough to compare to last year, but things still look pretty solid.”