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Consumer spending, incomes rise

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Hunter Harvey, 2, helps his dad, C.J., wheel a big-screen television Friday at a Target store in Wilmington, Mass.

WASHINGTON — U.S. consumers boosted their spending again in October, while their incomes increased at the fastest clip in six months. A key gauge of inflation watched by the Federal Reserve posted the fastest 12-month gain in two years.

Consumer spending increased 0.3 percent in October after a revised 0.7 percent jump in September, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. Incomes increased 0.6 percent, the best showing since April.

An inflation gauge closely followed by the Federal Reserve increased 1.4 percent compared to a year ago. That was the fastest 12-month advance since 2014. The rise was still below the Fed's 2 percent target, but with inflation firming, the Fed is expected to boost a key interest rate next month.

The inflation gain marked the strongest pace since prices had risen 1.5 percent for the 12 months ending in October 2014.

"These readings continue to move closer to the Fed's 2 percent target," said Gregory Daco, senior economist at Oxford Economics.

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He predicted inflation would begin to run above 2 percent early next year, influenced in part by President-elect Donald Trump's policies to boost spending and cut taxes.

Because of this, Daco predicted the Fed would be pushed to a slightly faster pace for raising interest rates. He forecast two rate hikes in 2017 and three in 2018.

The 12-month increase in the Fed's preferred inflation target was a tiny 0.3 percent a year ago. That reflected a period when oil prices were plunging. The absence of inflationary pressures has been a key reason the Fed has been slow to boost its benchmark interest rate.

The central bank is widely expected to increase the rate by a quarter-point at its December meeting, a year after it raised rates for the first time in nearly a decade.

With incomes rising faster than spending, the saving rate jumped to 6 percent in October, up from 5.7 percent in September.

The rise in spending reflected a 1 percent increase in purchases of durable goods such as autos and a 1.4 percent rise in spending on nondurable goods. Spending on services such as doctor's visits and utilities fell by 0.2 percent in October.

Spending is closely watched since it accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity. The overall economy grew at a solid 3.2 percent rate in the July-September quarter. Analysts believe growth will slow to around 2 percent in the current quarter.

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