Consumer spending: Drab at best

The consumer makes up a large part of the greater economic picture, but the picture is dull at best. Retail sales fell for the second month in a row in January—adding to mounting evidence consumers started 2014 on a sour note.

Last month retail sales dropped by 0.4 percent. "A lot of analysts and economists have tried to explain that away because of weather, but it's very clear that we've seen this declining trend since an outside spending pattern in October," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at Sterne Agee.

If the consumer is not out there spending, the outlook for growth remains weak. "The consumer losing momentum through the fourth quarter, carrying over into the start of the new year and going forward without sustainable job and income growth, it's very likely that we continue this tepid pace of consumption," said Piegza.

Spending power has waned over the past three months. "Consumers are shifting the goods in their baskets from month to month, which to me is a very alarming scenario," said Piegza. "One month consumers are gobbling up autos and electronics, the next, clothing and maybe going out to dinner for food and beverage purchases, rather than seeing a simultaneous rise across all categories which would be very indicative of a strong consumer sector," she said.

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