Wal-Mart Stocks Crash

“Where are all the customers? And where is all their money?” That was the plaintive tone struck by a Walmart executive concerned about the giant retailer’s early February results, which he called “a total disaster” in a memo leaked by Bloomberg News. Investor panic caused the stock of America’s largest retailer to drop 3.8 percent at its low point Friday, and led other retailers’ stocks to fall in sympathy. The obvious answer: the people at the lower rungs of the income ladder who constitute Walmart’s customer base have been hit disproportionately by the increase in the payroll tax that took effect on January 1.