Wallets Still Clamped Shut

Neither post-holiday sales nor a new president made Americans confident enough to spend seriously in the new year.

A monthly reading of Americans' spending intentions, the Discover U.S. Spending Monitor, edged up to 77.8 in January from 76.6 in December, which had been its lowest point ever. But that was still down 8.2 points from last June, before the massive market meltdown in the fall.

More Americans continue to say they plan on spending less in the next month - 29 percent - compared with 17 percent who say they will spend more. A year ago, the position was switched: more consumers planned to shop-till-they-dropped than curtail spending.

Two-thirds of those surveyed said they think the economy is going downhill, slightly better than the 70 percent who were pessimistic last month, but 52 percent said their finances are deteriorating. Only 49 percent said they have money left over after paying bills.

The survey, sponsored by Discover Financial Services, randomly polled 15,000 U.S. adults over the phone throughout January.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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