NEW YORK (Real Money) -- Here's the problem. The data are now corrupt. We have nothing that can be used to bolster a bull case.
When we see a weak number for, say, housing, we can say, "Oh yeah, nobody went to look for a house." But that doesn't mean much in a world where the auto stocks have been crushed, when they've reported bad numbers. It doesn't mean much at all, in fact, when you think about the number of cars on the lot.
So we are naturally suspicious.
Same thing with China. You know, I am opening this Mexican small-plate restaurant -- Bar San Miguel on Smith Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. I am trying to get an order in for printed bags for customers to take out leftover food. The Chinese mill, though, is closed, as it closes every year for the Lunar New Year. In previous years we hadn't been worried about such a downshift. Now we are. So the closed mill is taken as a sign of a larger slowdown -- even though it isn't!
We are seeing the exact same thing with the poor retail sales. Who can trust these numbers? Who went out in this weather?
At the same time, though, how do we know that people aren't permanently changing their habits right now in response to better ways to shop? Last night on Mad Money, I had on two terrific women who started a company called Birchbox. I did the homework and, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out who would pay $10 a month (for women) or $20 a month (for men) for a little box with a sampling of different toiletry products to arrive at your house. There are lots of samples in the boxes, as well as one fairly sizable nonsample of some product you probably have never heard of.