SALES: Return to Caution

Using computer studies and other arcane gauges, most economists continue to forecast a strong business upturn this year. The consumer, however, measures his well-being by less sophisticated yardsticks: take-home pay, store prices and job opportunities. In these terms, the first two months of 1972 have given scant reason for ebullience. The result is that consumer spending, which spurted briefly last year, has again flattened out.

Partly because of strong early Christmas buying, retail sales in November rose 1.7% over the previous month, but in December they fell 1.2% from the month before. Preliminary figures for January show that, excluding auto...

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