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This Sector the Only Bright Spot in October Retail Sales

By for Daily Gains Letter | Nov 22, 2013

October Retail SalesOctober U.S. retail sector sales numbers are in, but are they worth getting excited about?

The Census Bureau announced on Wednesday that October retail sector sales increased 0.4% month-over-month and 3.9% year-over-year to $428.1 billion. From a shorter-term perspective, the 0.4% increase really isn’t anything to get excited about; that 3.9% year-over-year increase, though, looks pretty good. (Source: “Advance Monthly Sales for Retail and Food Services October 2013,” U.S. Census Bureau web site, November 20, 2013.)

Or does it? Take a step back, and you can see we’ve been in a downtrend for the last few years.

In October 2010, U.S. retail sector sales were up 6.9% month-over-month. This isn’t a big surprise when you consider the so-called economic recovery only began in mid-2009. In October 2011, U.S. retail sector sales were up 7.6% year-over-year, another strong gain on the back of ongoing optimism that the economy would rebound. (Source: “Retail and Food Services Sales,” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Economic Research web site, November 20, 2013.)

But then we realized the economic recovery wasn’t much of a recovery at all. In 2012, October retail sector sales were up just 4.4%, almost half the gain of the previous year, and in October 2013, U.S. retail sector sales were up just 3.9%. Looking at it from a longer-term perspective, even the recent October year-over-year numbers aren’t anything to get worked up about.

Today, we’re more than 50 months and $3.0-plus trillion into the Federal Reserve-guided recovery, and we really don’t have much to show for it. In fact, you could argue that the economy might have done better without any … Read More