Retail Sales Reflect Consumer Pressures

A Commerce Dept. report shows anemic gains for October as gas prices, mortgage payments, and heating bills drag down purchases

No one disputes consumers are under cost pressures: higher gasoline prices, higher mortgage payments, higher winter heating bills. That has worried investors hunting for signs of hope. On Nov. 13, many clung to a respectable income report from Wal-Mart Stores (WMT), the world's largest retailer. The company topped Wall Street's forecast and saw its shares surge more than 6%. A day later, figures on October retail sales showed that the retail stock rally was more wishful thinking on the part of investors than any real change in consumer spending.

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