The government reported this week that U.S. consumers spent cautiously last month.
According to the Commerce Department, retail sales increased 0.4 percent month-over-month in June.
Excluding spending on volatile sectors like autos and gasoline, however, so-called “core” retail sales increased less than two-tenths of one percent in their weakest gain since January.
Economists believe weak retail sales could slow economic growth in the April-through-June quarter to an annual rate below 1 percent – or about half of the tepid 1.8 percent growth realized in the 1st quarter of the year.
Meanwhile developments in the current 3rd quarter are siphoning cash out of consumer’s wallets at an accelerated pace.
Crude oil prices have already spiked more than 10 percent in July alone, dragging gasoline prices along for the ride. And the national average price of unleaded gasoline soared to $3.67 per gallon Friday… That’s the most expensive gas at the start of a weekend since March.
Demand for gasoline typically peaks during the summer, when the mercury in U.S. thermometers follows a similar upward trend. That proved to be the case again this past week when high temperatures and/or persistent drought made life difficult from coast-to-coast.
The dog days of summer are barking all over the country this week as high temperatures gripped most of America.
Kenneth Moody, Roofer, New York City: "105 degrees, stifling heat, sun barreling down on you. But you gotta make your money."
East coast water sprinklers worked overtime as heat advisories warned of triple digit temperatures and high humidity was also present to add insult to injury, and the weather pattern was forecast to continue for several days.
Courtney Faulden, New York City Resident: "I feel like we kinda exaggerate a lot of times, we call everything superstorms now and all stuff like that so we go overboard a little bit. It's a couple of days, a string of heat. It's summertime."
Residents and tourists of Washington D.C., were under hot conditions as well as the mercury approached the mid-90’s.
Steve Garman, Tourist Visiting Washington: "You know, it's not too bad. You got some shade trees, we find shade and drink lots of water. We're managing."
Across the country on the west coast, the most immediate threat came in the form of wildfires in southern California.
As many as 6,000 people were told to evacuate their homes, cabins and hotels, as the blaze spread quickly near Palm Springs, east of Los Angeles. The fire has burned more than 35 square miles since it began on Monday. More than 3,000 firefighters were locked in battle with the blaze that also is being fought from the air.
Zac Maring, U.S. Forest Service: "This right here is considered heli-base. All the helicopters land, they fuel, they do all their maintenance. The majority of the helicopters you see in the air are doing bucket drops, hauling water from Hemet Lake to the fire itself, to the line."
The U.S. Forest Service issued the further evacuation orders as the situation changed quickly.
Bob Poole, US Forest Service: “As you can see behind us, the fire's still very, very active. It's active burning right in the north and the northeast. Right in the center, there's an old burn from about seven or eight years ago, where the fuels are a lot sparser. So we actually have two fronts, and that's because of the swing around that old burn.”
Fire crews hope for higher humidity in the evenings to counter dry daytime air. But that has not been the case during the early stages in the battle against the wildfire.
Most of the nation’s weather is being influenced by a broad upper-level ridge. That includes the Corn Belt, where only locally-heavy rainfall was experienced.
In Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska, worsening soil moisture, 30-day rainfall deficits and warming temperatures are becoming the norm.
Overall, 54.4 percent of the contiguous U.S. is in some form of drought… that’s up 4-points in the last three weeks. But it’s still dramatically better than a year ago at this time, when arid conditions of the nation were at 81 percent. In fact, this week one year ago would become the peak of the worst drought in half a century.
Nevertheless, the nation’s corn crop continues to grow in the dry conditions as USDA’s latest crop progress report reveals 66 percent of the corn is listed in the excellent to good category. That’s virtually the same a week ago.