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Luxury spending falls 3.9 percent in June

NEW YORK — Affluent Americans went back to tightening their belts in June after months of showing other shoppers how to spend, raising concerns for the overall economy.

Data released late Wednesday by MasterCard Advisors' SpendingPulse shows luxury spending dropped in June for the first time since November.

The 3.9 percent decline in luxury spending from a year earlier is particularly worrisome because the well-heeled — households with annual incomes in the top 20 percent, about $158,000 on average — account for almost 40 percent of overall consumer spending.

And a downtrend in luxury spending, which excludes jewelry but includes upscale clothing, accessories and restaurants, could signal trouble for retail and in turn for the broader economy.

Other figures from SpendingPulse, which tracks all transactions including cash, were mixed.

SpendingPulse saw revenue gains in clothing sales at mall-based chains, but only because a large increase in children's fashions compensated for the third monthly drop in women's clothing. And spending for major home appliances was sluggish for the second straight month as government supports faded. Online spending in all categories, however, continued to increase. Consumer electronics spending also rose slightly, helped by sales of new products including the iPad from Apple.

"In general, we are looking at a stable but mild growth," said Michael McNamara, vice president of research and analysis SpendingPulse, whose figures include transactions from Sunday, May 30, through Saturday.

After building overall momentum during the first quarter, "we've been just treading water," McNamara said.

"It isn't a good omen for the consumer recovery, which cannot exist without the luxury spender," said Mike Niemira, chief economist at the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Luxury spending falls 3.9 percent in June 07/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 9:16pm]
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