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Context:

WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan Tuesday called economic conditions generally "quite favorable" and said recent softness in consumer spending is likely to be short-lived, allowing the Fed to raise interest rates gradually as the economy improves.
...
"Inflation also seems to have been boosted by transitory factors such as the surge in energy prices," Greenspan told the Senate Banking Committee. "Those higher prices, by eroding households' disposable income, have accounted for at least some softness in consumer spending of late, a softness which should prove short-lived."

Question:
(1) I think "softness" is different to "weakness". But what does it mean here?
(2) "...have accounted for at least some softness in consumer spending of late"
Does "account for" mean the same below? --
The cost of the car accounted for 30% of our total income this year.
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1) Softness does indeed mean weakness here. Consumer spending in the US has recently weakened/softened.

2) I wouldn't completely agree with your answer.
Those higher prices, by eroding households' disposable income, have accounted for at least some softness in consumer spending of late, a softness which should prove short-lived.


You could rewrite that sentence as....

Those higher prices, by eroding households' disposable income, have *** at least some softness in consumer spending of late, a softness which should prove short-lived.

Here's another "accounted for" example....

Her rotten childhood accounted for her being mean and miserable in her late 20s.

Using GuruNet.com
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phrasal verb:

account for

To constitute the governing or primary factor in: Bad weather accounted for the long delay.
To provide an explanation or justification for: The suspect couldn't account for his time that night.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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I wouldn't use Greenspan's gobblygook as a way to learn English. He is often purposefully obtuse and turgid in his language.
Comments  
Very good reply, indeed. Emotion: smile