New York -- The Deloitte Consumer Spending Index ticked down slightly in March, but has remained relatively steady with a reading over 4.0 the past five months. The Index tracks consumer cash flow as an indicator of future consumer spending.
"The drastic ups and downs among factors including wages, home prices and unemployment claims have subsided, delivering more stability to the Index, which remains at a level consistent with real personal consumption growth of around 2 percent at an annual rate," said Patricia Buckley , director, economic policy and analysis, Deloitte Services LP, and author of the monthly Index. "Rising real home prices and small but steady consumer spending increases are among factors suggesting the country may be poised for growth this year, should the economy avoid negative impacts from Europe's financial troubles or the debt ceiling debate this summer."
The Index, which comprises four components — tax burden, initial unemployment claims, real wages and real home prices — fell slightly this month to 4.12 from a reading of 4.37 the previous month.
"Consumers have maintained their level of spending in recent months and retailers should be encouraged by the economic signals," said Alison Paul , vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail & distribution sector leader. "However, retailers do not have the wind entirely at their backs this month: Consumers with their tax refunds may be a welcome sight in April, but the month will come without the usual Easter holiday to boost sales. Retailers should simultaneously focus on consumers' pent up demand and tax refunds, coaxing shoppers to leave behind the winter's chill and replace the items that were on the back burner, while giving them a promotional incentive to combine those purchases in the retailer's store."