NEW YORK — This summer, Americans were walking contradictions: They opened their wallets despite escalating fears about the slow economic recovery and surging gas prices.
A group of 18 retailers ranging from discounter Target to department-store chain Macy’s reported August sales on Thursday that rose 6 percent — the industry’s best performance since March — according to trade group International Council of Shopping Centers. At the same time, the government released numbers showing that Americans spent in July at the fastest clip in five months.
The news appears to show that what Americans say and do are two different things: The reports come two days after a private research firm said consumer confidence in August fell to its lowest level since November 2011 as Americans grew more concerned about the job market, business conditions and the overall economy.
“This is bit of a head scratcher,” said Mark Vitner, a Wells Fargo Securities senior economist. “This runs counter to most of the other data related to the consumer.”