US consumer spending growth -- the heart of the economy -- slowed unexpectedly last month, but analysts said on Thursday that a boost in consumer confidence could yet save crucial Christmas sales. \nExpenditures advanced by a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent last month, disappointing many Wall Street analysts who had predicted a gain of 0.3 percent. \nSpending had advanced 0.8 percent the previous month. \nConsumer spending is pivotal because it drives two-thirds of US economic activity. \nPeople's incomes climbed 0.3 percent, a little better than many Wall Street forecasts. Disposable incomes -- or incomes after tax -- rose by the same 0.3 percent margin. \nAfter accounting for inflation, consumer spending was flat and disposable income climbed 0.2 percent. \n"While this could be considered cause for concern, I look for a big rebound in December," said Steve Stanley, economist at RBS Green-wich Capital Markets. \n"Auto sales likely posted a rally in December for the third straight year, holiday sales should turn out to be decent if not spectacular, and prices, led by energy, almost certainly are falling," he said. \nA breakdown of the consumer spending figures showed expenditure on durable goods, such as cars, slumped 2.4 percent. Purchases of other goods rose 0.4 percent. Spending on services climbed 0.6 percent. \n"November's spending gain, in combination with the strong increase in October, sets us up for a solid holiday sales showing," said Wachovia economist Gina Martin. \nFor retailers, the November-December period is crucial. \nThe slowdown in consumer spending appeared to confirm a tepid performance by retailers, who reported a 0.1-percent gain in sales last month. \n"The picture is clouded so far by individual retailers and same store sales that have failed to meet expectations but in the aggregate sales are on pace to record a holiday season at least equivalent to last year," Martin said. \nIn an encouraging sign, US consumer sentiment showed a stronger-than-expected improvement this month, a survey by the University of Michigan showed. \nThe university's survey-based consumer sentiment index rose to 97.1 this month from 92.8 last month. It was also up from an early-December reading of 95.7. \nMajor US retail chains reported a pre-Christmas spending rush, improving holiday sales prospects. \nSales jumped 1.6 percent in the week ending Dec. 18, adding to a rise of 1.2 percent the previous week, according to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) and UBS Warburg. \nCompared with a year ago, sales were up 3.5 percent. \n"With just a few days left before Christmas, consumers continued to pick up their holiday shopping and gave retailers another week of positive sales," ICSC chief economist Michael Niemira said. \n"As of Dec. 19, only 31 percent of consumers had totally completed their gift shopping, which means that some 70 percent still have a little shopping left before Christmas," he added. \n"Consumers have stated that they have been shopping even later this holiday season than last year, which provides some evidence that this season will have a late-last minute surge," Niemira said.
HELPING HAND: Taiwan is ready to help other nations and will not sit idly by while the global fight against the coronavirus continues, President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan, as a responsible member of the international community, is to offer humanitarian assistance to nations hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic by sending them masks and medicine, as well as sharing with them an electronic system that the government has been using to track down people that need to be quarantined, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said yesterday. With the nation’s daily production having reached 13 million masks and soon to reach 15 million, the government is to donate 10 million masks to medical personnel in nations most severely affected by the coronavirus, Tsai said at the Presidential Office in Taipei. The
NINE NEW CASES: The CECC said two locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, and seven imported ones – five women and two men – brought the nation’s total to 348 People who refuse to wear a mask on public transportation after being asked to do so would face a NT$3,000 to NT$15,000 fine, effective immediately, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday after announcing nine additional COVID-19 cases. In a move to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications on Tuesday announced that people must wear masks on trains and intercity buses, while Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, on Tuesday said that people should wear them when they cannot maintain a social distance of 1.5m indoors. Chen yesterday
TRILLION PROPOSED: The premier said the goal was to keep ‘businesses solvent, the unemployment rate down, transportation and logistics going, and cash flowing’ The Executive Yuan yesterday announced an expanded economic stimulus package totaling NT$1.05 trillion (US$34.64 billion), including NT$81.6 billion in subsidies for employers to prevent a spike in unemployment. The increased budget comprises a special budget of NT$210 billion, up from the NT$60 billion already passed by the Legislative Yuan; NT$140 billion — up from NT$40 billion — to be appropriated from the general budget; and NT$700 billion in loans to industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics Minister Chu Tzer-ming (朱澤民) told a news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. The NT$150 billion increase in the
The Central Epidemic Command Center yesterday released a set of revised criteria for reporting suspected COVID-19 cases, while also announcing its guidelines for disclosing patients’ personal information. The center said that its advisory specialist panel revised the definition for “severe pneumonia with novel pathogens” — COVID-19 infection — by expanding the criteria needed to report suspected cases. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that physicians should report people for testing if they meet one of three clinical conditions: They have a fever, acute respiratory infection, or a lack of smell or taste; there is a