U.S. stocks and exchange traded funds (ETFs) are in negative territory this morning as new reports indicate that American consumers are still clinging tightly to their wallets.

Job security, a decline in income and simply an overall attraction to saving cash led to sluggish sales for merchants in July.  It appears that mall-based merchant chains were hit the hardest as consumers focused on necessities.  The International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs tally fell 5% in July compared with the year-ago period.  Despite the news, the SPDR S&P Retail (XRT) was up nearly 1% in morning trading.

The Labor Department said that new jobless claims fell to a seasonally adjusted 550,000 for the week ending Aug. 1, down from the 588,000 in the previous week and lower than the 580,000 expected by analysts.

Black gold has dipped below $71/barrel as traders become worried about demand. Inventories increased by nearly 2 million barrels last week.  The news sent the United States Oil Fund (USO) down 1.3% in morning trading.

In the real estate arena, mortgage rates dropped, putting the average for a 30-year mortgage to 5.22%.  This drop in rates may lead to an increase in demand for homes, as well as a jump in the number of people looking to refinance their loans.

Overall, all three major U.S. indexes are down in morning trading.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1%, the S&P 500 gave up 0.3% and the Nasdaq declined by 0.5%.

For more stories on the retail sector, visit our retail category.

Kevin Grewal contributed to this article.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.