By  on August 2, 2011

Washington skirted catastrophe, reaching a last-minute debt deal and avoiding a U.S. default Tuesday, but retail stocks had their worst day in more than a year and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell below 12,000 as investors worried anew that consumer strength is wavering — even in the world of luxe.

Personal consumption expenditures fell unexpectedly in June, retreating 0.2 percent from the prior month. It was the broad measure of consumer spending’s first decline in a year and, together with higher savings rates and indications of a slowdown in the bulwark luxury sector, painted a sobering picture for the fashion industry.

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