Shopper spending remained remarkably resilient all through 2023, even within the face of extended inflation and excessive rates of interest.
However that’s unlikely to proceed, based on Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist on the Nationwide Retail Federation.
“A yr in the past, many commentators have been skeptical and calling for a recession, however the recession by no means got here. With every passing month, shoppers stored spending regardless of inflation and better borrowing prices.”
“Nonetheless, these tailwinds are usually not essentially sustainable,” Kleinhenz stated within the January problem of NRF’s Month-to-month Financial Evaluation, launched Tuesday.
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Within the final yr, bank card debt spiked to a report excessive, surpassing $1.08 trillion, based on the most recent quarterly report from the Federal Reserve Financial institution of New York.
Now, extra cardholders are carrying debt from month to month and fewer are in a position to repay their balances in full.
“We’re nonetheless largely a paycheck-to-paycheck nation,” stated Mark Hamrick, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.
To date, shoppers have been sustained by very low unemployment. December’s jobs report closed out 2023 with one other strong hiring acquire whereas the unemployment fee held at 3.7%. Nonetheless, economists surveyed by Bankrate count on a lot slower payrolls development within the months forward with the jobless fee edging above the 4% degree.
“The labor market appears to be like set to chill additional this yr, which is able to affect shopper expectations for employment and wage development, and, in flip, have an effect on spending choices,” Kleinhenz stated. “Spending is elevated relative to present revenue, and sustaining the current tempo of development might be more and more tough.”
What the Federal Reserve will do with rates of interest is essential to figuring out borrowing prices and credit score situations going ahead, Kleinhenz added. The central financial institution has already indicated as many as three cuts coming this yr. Nevertheless, even then, bank card APRs aren’t prone to enhance a lot.
“Amid all of the optimism about what the Federal Reserve may do that yr, the excessive value of debt is with us for the foreseeable future,” Hamrick stated.