April Retail Sales Soiled The Bed Sheets

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by Dave Kranzler, Investment Research Dynamics:

Perhaps the perma-bullish Wall Street analysts should contribute to retail sales by stocking up on Depends – like the Merrill Lynch analyst who forecast retail sales to climb 0.7% ex-autos. Retail sales, preliminarily, were said to have declined 0.2% from March.   The “core” retail sales group – retail sales not including autos and gasoline – were flat. Wall Street’s finest expected a consensus 0.4% gain.

I say “preliminarily” above because, if you scan the Census Bureau’s report you’ll note “asterisks” in several major line items.

This means that “advance” numbers were not available for those retail sales categories.  Thus, the CB guesstimates the number based on past numbers for that category.  It also means the Census Bureau can overestimate that category for headline purposes with the intent to revise lower in future reports.

Retail sales numbers are reported on a nominal basis.  If they were to be adjusted by a real rate of inflation, the month to month decline from April likely would have approached at least one half of one percent.

Funny thing about the guesstimate for new car dealer sales.  The OEM’s report actual deliveries to new dealers every month.  I would have to believe that new car dealers have highly automated sales tracking software. It would seem that the Census Bureau should be able to have a fairly accurate data sample and estimate for April new car dealer sales well before the middle of the following month. But using the (*) enables the Government to manipulate the number into a favorable outcome for the “advance” report.

We know that the average household – i.e the 80-90% of all households – are struggling under the weight of record monthly debt service requirements on a record amount of consumer debt. This plight is made worse by the fact that real wages are declining.  Not to judge Wall Street analysts harshly (said sarcastically), but it should be obvious that retail sales were going to show a decline in April.  Imagine how bad the actual number must be if the Government has to release a guesstimated report showing a nominal decline.

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