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Faster Inflation Causes ‘Trade Down’ to McDonald’s, Wal-Mart

McDonald’s Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are getting a boost from value-minded consumers as rising commodity costs constrain discretionary income and confidence in the economy wanes.

Energy and food costs have risen 19 percent and 4 percent since December, according to the Labor Department. That caused real disposable income, or the money left over after taxes and adjusted for inflation, to remain unchanged. The confluence of higher prices and unemployment at 9.1 percent has become especially acute for households making less than $75,000 a year, according to David Schick, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in Baltimore.