Consumer spending, a major driver of the economy, maintained some strength last year despite rising energy costs and a sinking housing market, The New York Times reported Sunday. However, there have been signs since December that consumption could be experiencing its first decline since 1991.
High-end retailers such as Nordstrom and Tiffany, along with more budget-conscious chains like Target and J.C. Penney, reported slower growth in December, the newspaper said. Consumer satisfaction with the economy is at a 15-year low, said Pew Research Center President Andrew Kohut.
"People are clearly concerned that we are headed into a recession," said Stephen I. Sadove, chief executive of the pricey Saks Fifth Avenue.
Mark M. Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, said official statistics suggest consumer spending slowed in late 2007 on such things as automobiles, furniture, building materials and healthcare.
However, American Express and the Consumer Federation of America said consumers are buying just as much gasoline as ever, but paying more for it, forcing them to cut other spending.