Gas prices ate into Americans' budgets last month
High fuel costs caused us to pay more at the pump in February and cut back just about everywhere else.
The Census Bureau indicated that retail sales were up in February to their highest in five months, but gave a whole lot of credit to gas prices that AAA says peaked close to $3.80 a gallon nationwide near the end of the month. That fueled a 5% hike in gas station sales from January to February, but didn't give companies that weren't Exxon Mobil (XOM) or ConocoPhillips (COP) much reason for joy.
Fuel prices have dropped since, but they've already taken a hefty toll on businesses in the suburbs. With drivers less likely to waste gas on a jaunt to the local strip mall or to their casual-dining chain of choice, spending at department stores like Macy's (M) and J.C. Penney (JCP) dropped 3.8% from February of last year while sales at restaurants like Darden's (DRI) Olive Garden, Bloomin' Brands' (BLMN) Outback Steakhouse and Brinker International's (EAT) Chili's were off 4%.
February's an ugly catch month between the end of the holiday season and the start of spring. Throw in some harsh late-season winter storms in the Midwest and Northeast, and it becomes even more nightmarish. In fact, one of the few bits of good news keeping the month from being a complete spending disaster was the 4.5% uptick in sales at home and garden stores like Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW) from February of last year. All those sales of shovels and bags of salt pile up in a hurry.
So is there any reason to hope for a more prosperous spring ahead? Well, there is the auto industry. Aided by Presidents Day deals, automakers sold 8.8% more cars in February than they did last year and continued the resurgent auto sales that helped drive economic recovery in 2012. Combine that with an improved jobs report, strong consumer confidence and record-high stock performance, and consumers should be feeling a lot less dour once they can stop hocking furniture to fill their gas tanks.
"This to us is something that we're not going to give up on, because we're not going to give up on destroying the health care system for the American people".
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
[BRIEFING.COM] Recent action saw the S&P 500 (+0.2%) climb to a new session high. The move also helped the Nasdaq (+0.2%) return into the green, but some portions of the tech-heavy index continue showing relative weakness.
The high-beta biotech group lags with the iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology ETF (IBB 256.65, -2.69) trading lower by 1.0% after spiking 2.2% yesterday. Similarly, chipmakers are also on the defensive with the PHLX Semiconductor Index lower by 0.6%. Qualcomm ... More
More Market News
4 analysts downgrade the stock the day after a disappointing quarterly report.
MUST-SEE ON MSN
- Video: Easy DIY smoked meats at home
A charcuterie master shares his process for cold-smoking meat at home.
- Jetpacks about to go mainstream
- Weird things covered by home insurance
- Bing: 70 percent of adults report 'digital eye strain'