A cautious ripple is spreading across the pond as consumers on both sides of the Atlantic keep a tighter hold on their wallets.

US consumers are treading warily, with a 0.7% fall in spending reported for June. This is mainly due to declining automobile sales and the fallout from soaring oil prices. Car dealers are predicted to respond with sales incentives.

It remains to be seen whether the slowdown is temporary; the Federal Reserve expects sales to pick up again shortly, but an interest rate rise is forecast later this month.

  • Meanwhile across the waters, the Confederation of British Industry's July distributive trades survey of 20,000 UK firms shows that high street activity slowed sharply following bumper sales in May and June.

    The weaker conditions were attributed to interest rate rises over the last two months and an end to sales promotions associated with soccer tournament Euro 2004.

    Consequently, sales of TVs, beer and clothing were most affected, with grocers and confectioners reporting a slowdown in business.

    According to the survey, 48% of retailers said sales were up on last year, while 24% said they were down. The balance of 24% compares with 43% in the June survey.

    The underlying trend in sales growth (a three-month average) remained high in July at 39%, as the CBI dismissed talk of a 'sustained downturn' as premature.

    The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee will decide today (Thursday) whether to raise interest rates for another successive month.

    Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff