The Deloitte Consumer Spending Index slid again in December, following November's decrease after a year of steady gains. 

The Index tracks consumer cash flow as an indicator of future consumer spending.

"The decrease in the Index this month is primarily due to Hurricane Sandy—which induced jobless claims, though that effect appears to have passed," says Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail & distribution sector leader. "On the plus side, consumers benefited from falling gasoline prices through the last quarter, which helped temper declining real wages. However, the fiscal cliff debate appears to have impacted consumer confidence late in the year, compounding the adjustment to new tax rates - all of these factors may lead to more conservative spending in the months ahead."

The Index, which comprises four components - tax burden, initial unemployment claims, real wages and real home prices - fell this month to 3.81 from a reading of 3.96 the previous month. 

"Faced with a more selective consumer, retailers are likely to experiment with creative marketing, in other words, trying new approaches with social media and shifting spend to their mobile strategy, to differentiate themselves," Paul says. "Whether it's a new shopping app or sales strategy, promotions should both reflect their individual brand identify while offering distinctive value to the shopper. We are already seeing many 'price matching' experiments launched during the holidays being extended into the new year – an effort to keep customers coming back."

Highlights of the Index include:

Tax Burden: The tax burden was at 11.03 percent in the most recent month.  A falling tax burden can be a sign of weaker growth in taxable incomes.

Initial Unemployment Claims: Jobless claims moved much higher this month to 405,750 from 367,250 the previous month, primarily due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy.

Real Wages: Real wages continue to fall from a year ago and are down 0.3 percent, although the pace of decline has moderated as gasoline prices fell sharply in November.

Real Home Prices: The housing market continues to improve, pushing housing prices up nearly 13 percent higher compared to a year ago. 

The Deloitte Consumer Spending Index is a proprietary methodology that analyzes economic factors to gauge consumer cash flow as an indicator of future spending. The analysis includes data from the U.S. Commerce Department, Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Labor.

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