On the face of it, government data suggests retail sales were down in December – but take a closer look, and it may not be the bad news it appears. (Keep in mind these are not online sales figures.)
The US Census Bureau reported on Wednesday that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for December, adjusted for various factors, decrease of 0.9% – but that was down from the previous month (November). The number was actually up 3.2% year-over-year.
And, according to the Wall Street Journal, retail spending excluding gasoline purchases rose 5.3% in December from a year earlier, far stronger than the annual gain of 4.1% in December 2013.
MarketWatch published reaction to the numbers – from “clearly disappointing” to “don’t panic.”
For example, Stuart Hoffman of PNC Financial Services Group said consumer are slowly increasing their spending, but they remain cautious in the wake of the Great Recession. “Job gains, lower gasoline prices, and increases in home and stock prices are positives for household spending,” he said.