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NEW YORK: Suddenly, a green Christmas doesn't seem so unlikely. American consumers kept their chins up and their wallets open in October, shrugging off a slumping stock market to boost retail sales by 1 percent to a seasonally adjusted $227 billion, the biggest increase in five months. With personal bankruptcies up this fall and the savings rate dipping into negative territory for the first time in decades, can the credit-card warriors possibly keep this up through the holidays?

Money writer Pablo Galarza says somehow, they always do. "This fall was supposed to be the last hurrah of the American consumer," he says. "But now, looks like maybe not." This Christmas, Galarza expects a two-tiered spending pattern, with discount stores like Wal-Mart and specialty stores like the Gap continuing their recent torrid sales, and department stores probably losing out. But the money will be there. "Seems like every year, analysts look at the economic signs and predict the worst Christmas yet," he says. "And then afterward you discover that it wasn't bad -- not great, but not bad."