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Retail sales down across the board

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Scott Jagow: I know it’s early in the morning, but man, the bad economic news just won’t let up. Today, it’s the latest retail sales figures. In every sector, from teen clothing to discount warehouses, stores had a very disappointing January. Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Even Wal-Mart is having a tough time. Sales at stores open at least a year were up only a half a percent. Analysts had expected a 2 percent increase.

Wal-Mart says customers are holding onto gift cards longer. When they do use them, they buy necessities. Other retailers tell similar tales. Limited Brands reported an 8 percent decrease in January sales. Macy’s had a 7 percent drop.

The grim numbers are no surprise to Wachovia senior economist Mark Vitner:

Mark Vitner: Consumers are seeing that their incomes are growing a little less rapidly. Gasoline prices are very high. And I think that folks are just getting squeezed a little bit so they’ve cut back on their spending.

But Vitner says more affluent consumers aren’t cutting back as much. That might explain Costco sales. They were up 7 percent. And Vitner says exports are growing, so we could still avoid a recession.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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