U.S. Consumers Face this Growing Threat in 2013

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U.S. consumers spent less than expected this winter, which resulted in the worst holiday retail sales since 2008.

Analysts blame bad weather, but Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald disagrees.

Fitz-Gerald appeared on FOX Business Network's "Varney & Co." program Wednesday morning to discuss the reasons weighing on retail sales.

He said, simply put, U.S. consumers are worried about parting with their money. With the fiscal cliff still unresolved, Americans are worried that higher taxes could cut into already strained household budgets.

But Fitz-Gerald warned that there's more than uncertainty threatening U.S. consumers. There's a looming nightmare scenario that could hit them harder than fiscal cliff fears.

He's talking about rising inflation.

The consumer price index and the Federal Reserve will tell you otherwise, but it's hard to argue that there's inflation at the gas pump, the grocery store, and almost everywhere else you look.

"Reality is everybody's experiencing 9, 12, 15, 20% [inflation] in their pocketbooks," said Fitz-Gerald. "Evidently these guys in Washington don't eat, they don't shop for their own food, and they don't drive."

As a fiscal cliff resolution looks less likely, the impact of higher prices will only intensify and most Americans seem unaware of the dangers. Watch the accompanying video to hear Fitz-Gerald's analysis on how inflation could impact you and all U.S. consumers in 2013, as well as his favorite source for tracking inflation.

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