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Welcome to the Pleasuredome

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. -- The January

retail sales

report was

released this morning.

Fresh numbers proved relatively weak. Overall sales rose just 0.3% last month. Core (excluding autos) sales actually fell 0.3%.

Older numbers now show even more strength. The December combo was revised from 1.2%/1.4% to 1.7%/1.9% and the November from 1.1%/0.7% to 1.3%/0.9%.

What this report does do is put us on track for a relatively weaker first-quarter spending number. The broader

personal consumption expenditure

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posted a 5.3% increase during the fourth quarter and, until this morning, looked to turn in an even bigger one during the first. (Note that the retail sales series captures less than half of the spending that goes on in any given month; it does

include Internet sales, but, unlike the PCE series, it does not include spending for services.) The fresh retail numbers now make something on the order of 3.8% more probable.

What this report does not do is tell us that consumption is at long last crashing. One? The job and income numbers work against the notion. Two? One little retail number in the wake of two (overall) or three (core) huge ones is hardly shocking. Three? Trying to earn a living by predicting the end of the spending boom based on the latest wiggle in the quarterly consumption data makes for lean living.

Just ask the people who have been failing at it for years now.

It's almost as miserable as being a columnist.

Side Dish

The poll will return next week. We have a great one lined up but until we can think of some clever phrasing for a certain body part it won't get by the editors.

I mean hey. We certainly don't want you to see in print the words you say everyday.