There is almost nothing that damages consumer confidence as badly as a rapid rise in prices. Starbucks recently increased the price of a bag of coffee by 17% because wholesale prices have risen by almost twice that rate in the last year. Cotton prices nearly doubled in 2010 but has fallen this year. But, apparel is made months in advance of when they reach store shelves. Summer clothing prices are up as much as 20%. That may change in the fall, but for the time being, the consumer’s ability to buy even the most basic clothing has been undermined. Consumers today pay more for sugar, meat, and corn-based products as well.
Investments have begun to yield less
Part of the recovery was driven by the stock market surge which began when the DJIA bottomed below 7,000 in March 2009. The index has risen above 12,000 and the prices of many stocks have doubled from their lows. As result, American household nest eggs that were decimated by the collapse of the market have rebounded and enabled people to splurge on themselves. However, the market has stumbled in the last quarter. The DJIA is up only 1% during the last three months and the S&P 500 is down slightly. Americans, though, have have few other places to put their money.. Ten-year Treasuries yield about 3%. Gold was a good investment over the last year, but it has begun to falter as well. The market may not be a friend to investors for quite some time."