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Consumer spending grows by most in 5 months

WASHINGTON - Americans increased their spending in November by the most in five months, and their income edged up modestly.

The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose 0.5 percent from October, when spending had risen 0.4 percent. It was the best showing since June. The gain was driven by a jump in spending on long-lasting durable goods such as autos.

Consumers' income rose 0.2 percent, an improvement from a 0.1 percent decline in October. Wages and salaries, the most important component of income, rose a solid 0.4 percent. The gain reflected strength in the private sector and a modest gain in government pay.

"November's U.S. personal income and spending data provide more evidence that real consumption growth is on course to grow between 3 percent and 3.5 percent annualized in the fourth quarter," said IHS Global Insight economist Amna Asaf in a research note.
 
Growth in Americans' disposable income has been more fitful during the economic recovery, the slowest in U.S. history. The amount of money U.S. households have to spend after taxes rose only 0.1 percent in November, according to the Commerce department. Although that was an improvement on the 0.1 dip in disposable income the previous month, it was down from 0.5 percent in September.

Consumer spending is closely followed because it accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. The strong November showing could be a sign of solid economic growth this quarter.

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