Consumer Spending Declines and Analysts Look Toward Next Week's Automotive Sales Reports

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) was trading 12 points lower, or 0.08%, in midafternoon of the last trading day in May. In the latest U.S. economic data, consumer spending last month fell for the first time in a year. That comes after two strong months of gains, including March delivering the best growth rate for consumer spending (1%) since August 2009, according to Morningstar. This dip hasn't reversed optimism that the second quarter will deliver a rebound in economic growth. In that vein, investors will be looking toward automotive sales numbers due early next week.

Meanwhile, here's one automaker making headlines today.

Ford's 2014 Escape. Source: Ford.

Ford (NYSE: F  ) announced yesterday it would recall nearly 1.4 million SUVs and sedans in North America. That covers 195,527 Explorers and 915,216 Escapes and Mercury Mariners being recalled for power-steering problems, Reuters reported. Nearly 200,000 Taurus sedans will be recalled due to a corrosion issue.

Thanks in large part to General Motors' recalls this year, which now cover nearly 14 million vehicles, the entire automotive industry has reached almost 23 million vehicles recalled in the U.S. so far in 2014. That number already exceeds last year's total recall figure and is easily on pace to break the record set in 2004 at 31 million vehicles.

With yet another recall headline out of the way, let's see what automotive analysts are forecasting for May's vehicle sales results.

Edmunds.com forecast that sales of new cars and trucks, across the entire industry, will reach 1,547,771 in May, bringing the estimated seasonally adjusted annual rate, or SAAR, to 16.2 million. That forecast would be an 11.5% increase from April and a 7.3% boost from May 2013. While it is expected to be a strong month, there is another aspect to consider.

"The anticipated strong performance in May reflects the combination of strong underlying demand coupled with a quirk of the industry sales calendar, with the May sales month containing five weekends, compared with just four weekends last May," John Humphrey, senior vice president of the global automotive operations at J.D. Power, said in a press release. "The record level of consumer spending reflects a combination of record transaction prices in May -- which, at $29,600, are up $800 from the previous May high of $28,795 set in 2013 -- and the strongest retail sales performance in May since 2004."

Edmunds.com also predicted that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (NASDAQOTH: FIATY  ) will lead the pack with a 14.4% year-over-year sales increase. The only other two automakers projected to produce double-digits gains from last May's sales result are Nissan and Toyota, respectively at 13.2% and 10.5%. General Motors and Ford are expected to post modest year-over-year gains of 6.7% and 0.9%, respectively.

In terms of overall sales volume, General Motors, Ford, and Toyota, are expected to remain the best-selling automakers in the U.S. market in May.

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