- - Thursday, July 5, 2012

RETAIL

NEW YORK — Retailers could be sweating it out this summer.

Shoppers, worried about jobs and the economy, pulled back on spending in June, slowing down sales for many retailers. And that could leave merchants on edge in the coming week, wondering if Americans will spend more once the back-to-school season starts in late July.

“The consumer is in a watch-and-wait mode,” said Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at consulting firm Kurt Salmon. “She has to be seduced by value.”


The June results, based on revenue at stores opened at least a year, are considered an indicator of a retailer’s health. Only a small group of chain stores report monthly sales figures. But the results offer a snapshot of consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of all economic activity. The figures have shown an uneven recovery. Discounters and high-end stores, for example, notched stronger growth last month.

But for most, sales were disappointing. Big chains such as Costco, Kohl’s and Macy’s, as well as teen retailer Wet Seal, were among stores with results that fell short of Wall Street expectations.

MORTGAGE

Fixed rates fall to new record lows

Fixed U.S. mortgage rates fell again to new record lows, providing prospective buyers with more incentive to brave a modestly recovering housing market.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average on the 30-year loan dropped to 3.62 percent. That’s down from 3.66 percent last week and the lowest since long-term mortgages began in the 1950s.

The average rate on the 15-year mortgage, a popular refinancing option, slipped to 2.89 percent, below last week’s previous record of 2.94 percent.

The rate on the 30-year loan has fallen to or matched record low levels in 10 of the past 11 weeks. And it’s been below 4 percent since December.

Cheap mortgages have provided a lift to the long-suffering housing market. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are up from the same time last year. Home prices are rising in most markets. And homebuilders are starting more projects and spending at a faster pace.

EUROPE

European Central Bank cuts rates to new low

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