Recession worries are fading. When Walmart and Target report, we’ll see how shoppers feel about that.


The Federal Reserve no longer thinks a recession is going to happen, but it still expects an economic “slowdown.” Mastercard Inc.
MA,
-0.54%
last month said consumer spending was “resilient,” while Visa Inc.
V,
-0.05%
said it was “stable.” This week, as analysts try to figure out what description best fits the mixed signals in the economy, we’ll start to get the view from the retail stores where people are doing that spending.

It begins with home-improvement chain Home Depot Inc., which reports quarterly results on Tuesday. Target Corp. and TJX Cos. report Wednesday. Walmart Inc. and Ross Stores Inc. round out the week on Thursday.

The quarterly financial figures arrive amid low unemployment but continued consumer difficulties, and not all economists are convinced the economy is out of the woods.

Inflation, though easing in some spots, is still hurting consumers. Savings are running thin. Analysts expect a big back-to-school season, with potential implications for the year-end holidays. But they’re worried about the coming return of student-loan payments — and the degree of large retailers’ exposure. Retailers have tried to realign their inventories so they’re stocked up with what people want. And they’ve fattened or propped up sales via price increases for essentials. But analysts have said they can’t rely on that tactic forever.

“Consumers are still spending but are under financial pressure and have been adjusting how much they buy while also shifting from goods to services,” Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist at the National Retail Federation, an industry group, said in a statement on Thursday.

“While job and wage gains have counterbalanced inflation, the stockpile of savings accumulated during the pandemic is dwindling and is no longer providing as much spending power as previously available.”

Still, the NRF said last month said it expected “record levels” of spending on back-to-school or back-to-college supplies. Consumers, the firm said, were looking to get an early start on the season. D.A. Davidson analyst Michael Baker also said that retail stocks could get a lift as the Fed backs off on raising interest rates.

“We remain constructive on the group with our overall view being that retail will outperform as the end of the rate tightening cycle comes into focus,” he said in a note on Wednesday.

Don’t miss: Sales-tax holidays: Here’s your state-by-state guide to tax-free back-to-school shopping through the end of summer

Also see: Want companies to lower their prices? Show them that you mean it.

The results from Home Depot
HD,
+0.52%
will add more color to the condition of the housing market, currently beset by high prices and mortgage rates that have crimped demand. Walmart
WMT,
+0.59%
and Target
TGT,
+0.10%
will offer an update on the push-and-pull between spending on essentials and non-essentials, with Walmart’s business more concentrated on the former than Target’s, and Target . Off-price chain Ross Stores
ROST,
-0.43%
has said that higher prices have continued to squeeze its low- and middle-income consumers.

This week in earnings

Along with the big-box retailers, tractor maker Deere & Co.
DE,
+0.12%
also reports, after calling out “healthy demand” for farm and construction gear. Applied Materials Inc.
AMAT,
-4.00%,
whose equipment helps microchip makers make microchips, also reports. So does cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks
PANW,
+1.82%,
as analysts start to dissect the tech world’s AI ambitions.

The call to put on your calendar

Fashion-industry consolidation: Tapestry Inc.
TPR,
+1.30%
— the parent of fashion brands Coach and Kate Spade — will report results on Thursday, after agreeing to acquire a few more of them. The company last week said it agreed to acquire Capri Holdings
CPRI,
-1.41%,
a luxury-fashion group made up of Versace, Jimmy Choo and Michael Kors. The agreement was made as inflation threatens consumer appetites for luxury accessories. However, some analysts have said that customers were less likely to seek out cheaper alternatives for items like handbags than they were for more run-of-the-mill items like jeans.

The number to watch

Cisco results: Concerns about falling product orders and weaker tech demand hung over Cisco Systems Inc.’s last round of earnings. Ahead of the networking-gear giant’s fourth-quarter results, set for Wednesday, Synovus analyst Dan Morgan said he was focused on the prospect of a rebound, and whether Cisco’s transition into a more multifaceted company is still intact. “All eyes will be on how Cisco is progressing in transitioning from an old router/switch leader to a more diverse revenue mix in Security (Secure/Agile Networks), Internet (Internet for the Future), Hybrid Work, End-to-End Security, and Services,” Morgan said.

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