Low holiday spending due to economic worries

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shopping Americans won't be spending as much this holiday season due to continued worry about their finances, according to new research. The Discover Spending Monitor found that 56% of Americans rated the economy as "poor" in October, a 4% increase over September. In addition, 46% said the economy is getting worse, a 3% increase over September.

Overall, women are more worried about the economy than men. In October, the percentage of women who rated the economy as "poor" shot up by nine points to 58%, while the number of men calling the economy poor actually dropped from 54% in September to 53% in October.This is bad news for retailers trying to eek out earnings this holiday season, especially since the Spending Monitor showed that roughly 63% of respondents said they planned to spend less this holiday season. The percentage for women -- who do much of the holiday shopping in the U.S. -- was even higher at 65%. The overall figure for both men and women is unchanged since last year, when retailers had one of the worst showings ever and had to slash prices even before Christmas to help move inventory. While stores have been trimming the amount and variety of merchandise they're stocking this season, less spending could still leave them with leftover merchandise come January.

Even the news that household spending inched up is a double-edged sword. Spending Monitor respondents indicated they'd be spending more on expenses like gas and groceries, but they're making up for this increase by further paring discretionary splurges like movies or restaurant meals.

Perhaps the most revealing -- and troubling -- portion of the Spending Monitor research shows that a rising number of Americans not only have no money left over after paying their bills, but expect their income to fall even further in the coming months. Most people have already cut their spending to the bone, so it's not clear what lies ahead for average Americans trying to make ends meet as 2009 comes to a close and beyond. The stock market may be rising and some big companies may be reporting profits, but make no mistake: This data shows that we're certainly not out of the woods yet.
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