" North American markets were slammed again yesterday on signs the American consumer -- perhaps the biggest driver of recent economic expansion in both the United States and Canada -- is getting much more cautious about spending.
Wal-Mart announced second-quarter profit below analysts' expectations and trimmed its earnings forecast. Shoppers remained conservative amid higher gasoline prices and housing costs.
"U.S. consumers continue to be under difficult pressure economically," said H. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart chief executive. "The top concerns among our customers are economic, money and finances, the increase in the cost of living, and gas prices."
Consumer spending, which makes up about 70% of the U.S. economy, slowed to a 1.3% annual growth rate in the second quarter, the weakest since 2005 "