Consumers starting to reject price hikes 

Executives at some of the country’s biggest retailers, manufacturers and consumer-products makers say they are seeing signs that people are becoming less willing to absorb price increases, The Wall Street Journal reports.  

Marlboro maker Altria said cigarette smokers are trading down to discount brands as higher gasoline prices shrink their disposable income. Sleep Number and Tempur Sealy International caution demand is falling for mattresses and some big-ticket items. 1-800-Flowers.com Inc. says it believes consumers are spending less on bouquets, partly because they are worried about rising inflation.

Robust consumer spending has powered the national economy through much of the tumultuous past two years, as households were helped by federal stimulus programs, rising wages and a rebound in the job market. 

As a result, companies that made everything from baby wipes to washing machines were able to raise prices without denting demand much. Now, however, analysts say that Americans’ buying power is being squeezed by inflation, which in March hit the highest annual rate since 1981. Grocers and other food and staples sellers, for instance, say shoppers have increasingly been seeking discounted products and lower-cost brands. Read the full story.