This blog post originally appeared on RealMoney Silver on Dec. 14 at 7:20 a.m. EST.

Similar to many, I was surprised in the strong retail sales release on Friday.

Perhaps this "new sampling" methodology (and wide sampling error) and message by the

U.S. Census Bureau

helps to explain the difference between the strength reported late last week and the weakness in private and state tax data. (Hat tip to Bill King.)

The strength of retail sales (issued in the government release) was in marked contrast to negative November comparisons issued by the

International Council of Shopping Centers

, poor results in

selected stores

such as


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, year-over-year weakness in some of the

largest states reporting sales taxes

and even the releases from trade associations (e.g.,


, which reported a national retail sales decline of 0.1% in November).

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Doug Kass is the general partner Seabreeze Partners Long/Short LP and Seabreeze Partners Long/Short Offshore LP. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy, sell or hold any security.