Economy struggles with loss of luxury

Shoppers outside of Tiffany & Co in New York City

TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: More corporate profit reports will be coming in this morning. The latest wave of earnings hasn't been very pretty. High prices for raw materials and the weakening economy are starting to eat away at bottom lines.

Among today's reports is Tiffany's. The luxury market often says a lot about where the economy is headed. More from Rachel Dornhelm.


Rachel Dornhelm: Not everyone can afford to shop at Tiffany's, but analysts keep a close eye on it and other luxury retailers.

Retail analyst Marshal Cohen says they can signal what might be in store for the overall economy.

Marshal Cohen: We're going to be able to get a good understanding of how, number one, the luxury consumer is still playing in the luxury sector. But an even more important, where all the growth has come from which has been that mid-level market, aspiring and reaching higher.

Joel Naroff is the chief economist for Commerce Bank. He says it's already clear the average consumer is cutting back.

Joel Naroff: But if they're being joined by the upper income consumer in becoming more conservative in spending, then the outlook for consumption, which is two-thirds of the economy, would not be great. And that's very worrisome.

Naroff says with all the money that's been going to upper-income households in the past decade, a slowdown in luxury spending could signal the economy is really having some problems.

I'm Rachel Dornhelm for Marketplace.

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