When US consumers stop spending.....

"NEW YORK - Rising interest rates and higher gasoline prices are putting the squeeze on consumers' budgets, and many are finding it harder to keep up with their bills. Credit counseling agencies say that consumers are coming in in droves seeking help.

"My phones are going crazy," said Howard Dvorkin, president of the nonprofit Consolidated Credit Counseling Services Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Consumers are carrying an exorbitant amount of debt ó and they don't have any savings to fall back on if things don't go right."

An important measure of consumer financial distress, late payments on credit cards, ticked up in the first quarter, according to figures from the American Bankers Association. The Washington, D.C., based trade group said the percentage of bank cards 30 or more days past due increased to 4.40 percent in the January-March quarter from 4.27 percent in the final quarter of 2005."

Yahoo News