I found two especially notable items in Walmart's Q3 conference call transcript (pdf). I view Walmart's results as particularly noteworthy given their retail prominence and focus on low prices. I previously commented upon their results in the May 20 post.
First, from page 13, "Comp store sales for the 13-week period, which ended October 29, declined 1.3 percent..." Although I didn't see it mentioned in the transcript, this was the 6th straight quarter of drops. One factor that may be fueling this decline is that apparently lower-price rivals - such as "dollar" stores and Aldi stores - are impinging on sales. Although it is not clear to what extent this is happening, I think from an overall economic standpoint it is very telling - and at least somewhat alarming - that a significant number of people apparently are seeking lower price alternatives to Walmart.
Second, from page 8, "Our own surveys and the reports on the recent U.S. election cycle indicate that financial uncertainty still weighs heavily on everyday Americans, including many of our core customers. The paycheck cycle is still pronounced for these customers." This "paycheck to paycheck" condition is something I have discussed in the aforementioned May 20 post as well as the September 23, 2009 post. While it is not something that receives a lot of mention - and statistics on it are difficult to find - I feel that it is nonetheless important as it highlights strains in, among other things, household finances, affordability, and standard of living.
A Special Note concerning our economic situation is found here
SPX at 1192.86 as this post is written