STATE OF BUSINESS: Consumer Slowdown

The U.S. consumer, who has gone right on buying heavily despite the recession, finally showed some signs of slowing up. The Federal Reserve Board reported last week that March department-store sales failed to live up to expectations. While sales were 1% above a year ago, the board had expected a rise of 6% because of the early Easter. New York stores were up 7%, Minneapolis 6%, Atlanta 4%, but Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis and Dallas were all down, as much as 3%. Hoping to stir renewed interest. Sears, Roebuck & Co. announced an average 13% price cut in its spring...

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