Prices, spending and confidence — it’s the consumer in focus for investors and the Federal Reserve this week.

First up is a report due out today on consumer inflation. The August data are likely to show price hikes have cooled for the second month in a row, primarily thanks to lower gasoline prices. Still, people continue feeling the pinch of higher prices compared to a year ago. And cooler energy prices may be masking hotter inflationary trends continuing to burn away at consumers’ spending power.

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