• Target and Walmart announce very different Q4 earnings

This week discount giants Walmart and Target announced fourth-quarter earnings, giving insight into how Americans will spend this shopping season.

A Seattle Times article reported that forecasts seem to confirm a trend that has taken shape during the economic downturn — one that has financially stable shoppers spending more freely as the economy begins to show new signs of life, while consumers in the lower-income brackets continue to hold tight to their purse strings even as the housing and stock markets rebound.

Charles Holley, Walmart's CFO, told reporters during a call that the retailer's customers still are worried about high unemployment and higher basic costs for things like gas. He said he also worries that they will have some anxiety over big tax increases and spending cuts that will take effect in January unless Congress and the White House reach a budget deal by then, the article reported.

"Macroeconomic conditions continue to pressure our customers," Holley said.

Meanwhile, the article reported that Gregg Steinhafel, Target's chairman and president, told investors: "We feel good about our ability to deliver inspiring merchandise, most-wanted gifts, and unbeatable value, while also generating expected profitability."

Read more about consumer behavior.

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