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Top households earn $210,000 or more: Middle Class

But the Top 5 percent in income earners -- those households earning $210,000 or more -- account for about one-third of consumer outlays, including spending on goods and services, interest payments on consumer debt and cash gifts, according to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by Moody's Analytics. That means the purchasing decisions of the rich have an outsize effect on economic data. According to Gallup, spending by upper-income consumers -- defined as those earning $90,000 or more -- surged to an average of $145 a day in May, up 33 percent from a year earlier.

Then in June, that daily average slid to $119. "I think a lot of that feeling that the worst was over has sort of abated," said Dennis J. Jacobe, Gallup's chief economist.

Although real estate brokers in Manhattan and the Hamptons report that buyers at the high end have returned, and Mercedes sales in the United States are up 26 percent this year, other indicators suggest a slowdown.

Wealthy Reduce Buying in a Blow to the Recovery
Published: July 16, 2010
The cautious attitude stems from concerns about global instability and the recent volatility of stocks.

See also The NYT Still Has Not Heard About the Housing Bubble


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