Visa today released the May reading of the Visa U.S. Spending Momentum Index (SMI), an economic indicator designed to be a timely gauge of the health of consumer spending.
In May 2021, the Visa SMI remained historically elevated at 123.3, indicating that the U.S. consumer recovery remains on firm ground. Exceptionally low SMI readings this time last year are creating some distortions in the true signal of consumer spending.
At its current level, the Visa SMI implies that 59 percent of consumers are now spending more than they did a year ago, while only 41 percent are spending the same or less. Compared to May 2019, which was not affected by the pandemic and lockdowns, 52 percent of consumers are spending more, which is up slightly from the 51 percent of consumers who were spending more in April.
The implication is that while the SMI decelerated on a month-over-month basis, the breadth of consumer spending actually expanded in May once adjusting the figures for last year’s low readings.
“May marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the consumer momentum recovery,” said Wayne Best, Visa’s Chief Economist. “The SMI’s strong reading again in May reflects the solid ongoing recovery taking place in the consumer sector.”
The gains in spending momentum, however, remain uneven across regions of the country. The SMI for the Midwest region continued to lag other parts of the country, with an SMI reading of 122.1 in May. The West ranked among the regions with the strongest consumer momentum at 125.5 as the region continues its gradual reopening process and is home to several states where more than 50 percent of the adult population has been vaccinated.
The Visa SMI is based on a sample of aggregated, depersonalized VisaNet data. Visa adjusts this data through proprietary methods to exclude factors that do not reflect spending momentum. The resulting sample data is then aggregated using a diffusion index framework where index values are scored from 0 to 200. When the Visa SMI rises above 100, the consumer spending momentum is strengthening and when it falls below 100, the spending momentum is weakening as fewer consumers are spending more relative to the previous year. The index is adjusted for day of week, month, holidays, and broad annual trends, and these seasonal adjustments are subject to revision each year.
The Visa SMI does not take into account the volume of payments; nor does it rely on all Visa-branded credentials, and therefore does not reflect Visa operational or financial performance. It is intended for informational purposes only and is offered on an “as is” basis without any warranties of any kind, express or implied. Each SMI report is as of the publication date.
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