NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. consumers still aren't spending as much as expected, but there are some bright spots in the retail landscape.
On Monday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis released data showing that personal spending in April was unchanged from March's 0.5% increase; Wall Street had been looking for a 0.2% gain. In spite of resilient stock prices, lower gas prices and an improving U.S. jobs market, consumer spending has only risen twice this year on a monthly basis.
Consumers do appear to be spending on several things, however. One is reducing debt. In a recent survey by American Consumer Credit, nearly 70% of those polled used their tax returns to pay down debt, catch up on bills or increase their savings. Just 14% of those surveyed headed to the malls or online to buy a product.
"What I think is happening is that consumers are only using a small portion of their savings from gas to buy new goods and services; rather, what they are doing is using those savings from gas to increase their personal savings rate, and they're also probably using it to pay down some debt," said MasterCard's (MA) President and CEO Ajay Banga on the company's first-quarter earnings call.
Consumers placing a priority on debt reduction was also seen by big box retailer Target (TGT), which has insight into credit trends via its RedCard debit and credit cards.
TheStreet takes a look at three categories U.S. consumers are being persuaded to spend more on, other than saving more and reducing debt.