Sustained by a cellar full of advance bookings, the travel industry coasted through a summer of rising fuel prices. Even in the face of alarming headlines in late summer, it managed to coax a bit more revenue out of a retrenching population of travelers.

But a new chapter seems to have opened in October, when ?weakening demand? became ?falling demand.?

The signs are everywhere: Overall consumer spending took a tumble in October, as big retailers such as Nordstrom, Saks and JCPenney reported double-digit declines.

The Conference Board?s consumer-confidence index fell in October to an all-time low of 38, a steep decline from 61.1 the month before. That was not surprising, given the number of headlines that included the words ?crash,? ?crisis? and ?1929.?

In short, the air is unmistakably leaving the balloon, and we are falling.

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