Consumer Confidential: Inflation rising, led by gas prices; Mattel comes up short
Here's your fun-in-the-sun Friday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:
-- The stats confirm what you already know: We're paying more for food and gas. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.5% in March, according to the Labor Department. That matched February's increase, the largest since the recession officially ended in June 2009. In the past 12 months, the index has increased 2.7%, the biggest rise since December 2009. The steep climb in food and gas prices could limit consumers' ability to purchase discretionary goods and services. Gas jumped 5.6% last month and has risen nearly 28% in the past year. Food prices rose 0.8%, the largest increase in almost three years.
-- Speaking of which (and this won't be news to Californians), the average price of gas is now above $4 per gallon in five states, and keeps heading higher. The $4 mark is a tough reminder for American drivers. The last time they saw prices that high was in the summer of 2008, just before the economy tanked. Retail surveys show that motorists are already starting to buy less fuel, yet the government still expects pump prices to keep climbing this summer. The national average has increased for 24 straight days, hitting $3.82 per gallon. It's above $4 in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Hawaii and Alaska.
-- Barbie's popularity wasn't enough to keep things on track for Mattel. The El Segundo toy giant says that even though sales of Barbie and other dolls helped the company's revenue rise 8% during the first quarter, higher spending on ads and other expenses outpaced sales growth. As a result, net income fell 33%. Dolls were big sellers during the quarter, typically a small one for toy makers since it follows the crucial holiday quarter. Barbie continued her run of strong sales, up 14% during the quarter. Monster High and Disney Princesses also sold well. Hot Wheels rose 6%.
-- David Lazarus