Americans keep on spending

Customers shop at a Target store in Chicago.


Kai Ryssdal: Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back if you bought something last month. Because once again, the American consumer is riding to the economic rescue. The retail sales report out this morning showed sales up 1.4 percent in May.

It gave Wall Street an early lift, but consultant Howard Davidowitz figures there's less to those numbers than meets the eye.

Howard Davidowitz: The consumer has debt over their heads, cannot refinance their homes . . . their mortgage has gone up, their food costs have gone up, their gas prices are going up. The consumer is underwater and retail sales are weak for the first four months of this year.

Howard cautioned against getting too excited about one month's worth of data:

Davidowitz: It would be a gigantic mistake, because the consumer continues weak.

But then again, Wall Street's never been a place where cooler heads prevailed.

A rally in the bond market — remember, that's when prices rise and yields fall — helped improve the mood quite a bit from the past couple of days. And then about 2 this afternoon East Coast time, the Federal Reserve came out with its semi-regular report on the economy. It's known as the Beige Book.

And it said the obligatory things about strength in some areas, but then it also added that there are no real inflationary pressures.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, the most widely heard program on business and the economy in the country.


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