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Consumer Confidential: Retail sales up, airlines rake in fees, Chrysler recalls Rams

December 14, 2010 | 10:26 am

Shoppingpic Here's your toast-of-the-town Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--Downturn, what downturn? Consumers turned out in force last month, pushing retail sales up for a fifth straight month. The best month for department stores in two years helped lift retail sales 0.8%, according to the Commerce Department. November's sales figures were better than economists had expected, prompting many to revise their forecasts for consumer-spending growth in the October-December quarter. Still, many cautioned that the economy needs more hiring and higher pay to sustain those spending gains in the new year.

--In case you were thinking that airlines make the bulk of their money nickel-and-diming passengers, some good news: You were right. U.S. airlines collected about $4.3 billion in fee revenue in the first three quarters of 2010, an amount roughly equivalent to the industry's anticipated total profits for the year. With the fourth quarter historically one in which airlines lose money, it's possible that nearly every penny of the industry's profits this year will result from fee income. U.S. airlines are expected to earn about $4 billion in 2010 after losing $23.7 billion the previous year. I'll bring my own peanuts, thanks.

--Heads up: Chrysler is recalling about 76,000 Dodge Ram pickup trucks because of a problem with the power steering that can mess up the brakes. The recall affects certain 2010-2011 model year Dodge Ram trucks built from March 2009 through October 2010. Chrysler says some trucks with diesel engines and a hydroboost brake system could be equipped with a power steering reservoir cap with excessive vent pressure levels. The excessive levels could lead to brake pedals that are slow to return and make the brake lights remain on, potentially causing a crash. Chrysler dealers will replace the steering reservoir cap free of charge.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Shoppers hit the stores last month, pushing retail sales up. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times