Friday May 4, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans' spending -- much like the economy -- continues to yo-yo.

Major retailers such as Costco and Macy's reported on Thursday that April revenue rose less that 1 percent in the worst performance since 2009 when the U.S. economy was just coming out of a bad recession.

The disappointing results follow two consecutive months of strong sales that were boosted by positive economic news about the job and housing markets.

"The economy is growing in fits and starts, and we are seeing sales shoot up and down," said Michael P. Niemira, chief economist at International Council of Shopping Centers. "We're in a choppy period."

A small group of merchants representing roughly 13 percent of the $2.4 trillion U.S. retail industry report monthly revenue at stores open at least a year, a key measure since it excludes results from locations that open and close during the year.

An average of April's results for 22 retailers nationwide rose 0.6 percent -- the worst since November 2009 when the tally was down 0.2 percent, according to The International Council of Shopping Centers. The recession officially ended in June 2009. That's in stark contrast to February and March when the group posted an average 4.1 percent sales gain on signs the economy was improving.

The latest results are impacted by a flurry of negative economic news. Govern ment reports on jobs and housing in recent weeks have renewed concerns that the economic recovery is facing a spring slowdown for the third straight year.


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And the stock market rally also has lost some steam amid worries about the European financial crisis and the economy at home.