Sorry, Fools -- the economic news isn't nearly good enough to justify today's Wall Street rally. According to Monday's Bureau of Economic Analysis report on income and spending trends in America, citizens are shopping in spite of their nearly empty wallets. After blipping upward in August, American consumers saw incomes fall again in September, a trend six months in the making:



Real disposable incomes in America dropped 0.3% in September, erasing August's meager gains. Yet real consumer spending increased 0.1%. Why are we still spending? And how are we spending more today, with less money?

Forget your wallet. What's in your bank account?
Alas, we drew down our savings. As incomes fell, America's savings rate dropped in tandem, down 0.3% sequentially. And can you blame us?

These days, it doesn't pay to save. According to Bankrate.com, bankers that made out like bandits on the back of American taxpayers just a couple of years ago are now offering mere pittances to those who choose to save. Fifth Third Bancorp (Nasdaq: FITB) and Huntington (Nasdaq: HBAN) are engaged in a race to the bottom, paying 0.05% for interest checking -- and they're losing the race to JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), which pays just 0.01%. Americans are undoubtedly fed up with "doing without" for two long years of recession (and counting), and they probably prefer spending what they don't have to saving what they do.

Go ahead, treat yourself
I recently had the chance to chat with some folks from Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD), and they agreed that among their customers, at least, shoppers feel justified in treating themselves to the occasional nonessential, morale-boosting clothing purchase. I expect a lot of semi-ritzy brands may benefit from this trend, which could also explain the uptick in sales at Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX).

If that's the case, Fools, I can't blame you. After a long, hard recession, maybe a treat is in order, just this once. But in the course of your shopping, make sure you don't forget the stocks behind the stores you frequent. After all, Limited doesn't just sell lingerie; it also pays a tidy 2% dividend, better than you'd get from most banks. Same thing for Starbucks. $3 coffee, 1.8% dividend yield. Think about it.

What do you think about BEA's facts and figures? Take the Foolish Rorschach test in the comment box below, and tell us what you see in the chart up above.

Starbucks is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation, but Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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