Everyone's reading tea leaves to figure out where the economy's headed, and Time finds reason for hope in something it calls the "Bed, Bath & Beyond barometer." The retailer's profits were up in the first quarter, and same-store sales weren't as bad as expected. This is especially good news, writes Sean Gregory, because analysts figure that people will start spending on their homes when the big thaw arrives.
"What we're beginning to see is the consumer returning to feel-good spending," says one. "But they're not doing it recklessly. They're sticking their feet in the water." Instead of a new car, he says, they're buying a candle and bath salt. Of course, it doesn't hurt that rival Linens 'n Things went belly up, but if Bed, Bath & Beyond's numbers continue to improve, a wider turnaround may be in the offing, says Gregory. (Read more Bed, Bath & Beyond stories.)