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Data: FRED; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Record levels of consumer demand are petering out as high prices cut into wages and add to household worries.

Why it matters: Shoppers will hold off on buying if goods get too expensive — a trend that if big enough could slow down economic growth.

  • Fresh tallies released Friday on retail, holiday shopping and consumer sentiment paint a different picture of what demand looks like now and where it’s going compared to a year ago.

By the numbers: The 2021 holiday shopping season grew 14.1% from 2020 to a new record high of $886.7 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Yes, but: Sales declined November to December, the NRF says — a trend that was backed up by data from the Census Bureau, which showed a decline of 1.9% in those two months. 

The big picture: Consumer sentiment has been falling over recent months and downshifted to its second-lowest level in 10 years in the early part of the month.

  • It's down 12.9% since last year, as more people begin to worry about the effect of higher prices on their personal finances and the government's ability to bring those prices down.

What they’re saying: “Consumer sentiment is typically a forward-looking indicator, versus retail sales, [which is] a lagging indicator,” CFRA senior equity analyst Arun Sundaram tells Axios.

  • The two measurements are starting to converge, which could mean weaker spending and retail sales in the coming months, he adds.

What to watch: Personal savings. 

  • The absence of financial padding in the form of enhanced unemployment benefits and child tax credits has caused the personal saving rate to plummet to a new pandemic low of 6.9% as of November.

Go deeper

Retail sales slipped a surprising 1.9% in December

Shoppers in San Francisco on Dec. 22. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Retail sales fell 1.9% in December compared to the previous month, suggesting that shoppers bought holiday gifts earlier last year as they faced rising inflation and supply chain issues.

Driving the news: The data is much lower than the 0% change predicted by economists, according to FactSet.

Corporate America's incredibly profitable pandemic

Expand chart
Data: S&P Dow Jones Indices; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Companies are about to blast out a blizzard of quarterly profit and sales numbers over the next few weeks, as the carnival of Q4 corporate results kicks off.

Driving the news: Large banks will open the floodgates, issuing reports early Friday that mark the unofficial start of earnings season on Wall Street.

23 mins ago - Health

Student's death renews calls for schools to stock opioid overdose drug

Photo: Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

A Connecticut student's death has renewed calls for schools to stock and administer naloxone, a drug that can quickly reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Why it matters: U.S. drug overdose fatalities reached six figures in a 12-month period for the first time in November, and synthetic or natural opioids were the cause of a majority of the overdoses.