American consumers are becoming more price-sensitive again

ASKED ABOUT the state of the economy, Americans are surprisingly gloomy. More than half say they are experiencing financial hardship; more than a third say they are having difficulty paying for regular household expenses. Yet, even as surveys suggest that Americans are tightening their belts amid persistently high inflation, data show that they continue to spend at a healthy clip. Last month the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that consumer spending is growing by 1.8% year on year after adjusting for inflation—not far from its historic average. A report by the Bank of America Institute, a think-tank, finds that consumer payments are growing at double digits, a sign that the American shopper “is still spending”.

This resilience can be explained in part by mattress-loads of savings. Americans accumulated more than $2trn in excess savings during the pandemic, when the federal government doled out unemployment benefits and stimulus cheques even as households cut back on…

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