Business: Those Cautious Consumers

Inflation-battered and recession-weary buyers return slowly to stores

The consumer carries the U.S. economy on his back. He accounts for two-thirds of America's gross national product; and during last fall and winter, he fueled the longest peacetime period of economic expansion in modern times by buying goods that he knew would only cost more next month. This attitude has proved to be right on target. In July, the prices paid by wholesalers rose 1.7% or at a yearly rate of 22.4%. But by the beginning of 1980, consumer spending was slowing down, and when the Federal Reserve Board tightened credit in March,...

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