WASHINGTON - Retailers are reporting the 57 million tax rebate checks sent out in the government's stimulus plan are starting to impact the economy.
The cash is just half of the $106 billion the government plans to send out.
Americans are on a binge, spending the $50 billion in tax rebate checks the government's sent out so far.
The nation's retailers are reporting stronger than expected sales in May - especially at discount stores like Wal-Mart - where shoppers are searching for bargains.
"We're doing everything we can to provide that value," Wal-Mart CFO Tom Schoewe said.
Consumers may get some short-term relief at the pump next month from a recent drop in the price of crude oil, which temporarily dropped $13-a-barrel from a record high nearly two weeks ago. But $4 -a-gallon gas is taking its toll.
"I try to walk to the supermarket, other grocery type stuff," said one consumer.
Record high jet fuel costs are causing airlines to cut jobs, ground flights, and tack on new fees for passengers checking their bags.
"I think in the end it's going to be the customer that ends up suffering," airline passenger Julia Ferguson said.
The Silver Lining to the Energy Cloud
Trying to bolster consumer expectations, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said there is one upside to the energy crunch.
"The silver lining of higher energy prices is that they provide a powerful incentive for action for conservation, including investment and energy saving technologies," he said.
But the mortgage mess in the housing industry certainly isn't over. Home foreclosures hit another record last month, and analysts expect housing prices to fall another 10 percent or more.
Another economic indicator out today is that the nation's jobless rate is up 5.1 percent with the economy losing 60,000 jobs last month.
With fewer jobs, more home foreclosures, and record gas prices, consumers are clearly feeling the pinch.
Now Americans are looking to the presidential candidates for answers on what each proposes to do to restore the nation's economy.