Dec 16, 2019

Economists shrug off downbeat November retail sales due to late Thanksgiving

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Wall Street shrugged in response to below-forecast consumer spending.

What's happening: Rather than interpret the data as a sign that the all-important consumer is losing steam, some are blaming November's figures on a calendar quirk — and keeping faith shoppers will continue to open up their wallets.

  • Cyber Monday, during which Americans spent a record $7.4 billion in online sales, wasn't included in Friday’s report since it took place on Dec. 2, as Axios' Orion Rummler reports.
  • "The late Thanksgiving could also have thrown off the model that the government uses to strip seasonal fluctuations from the data, holding back sales," Reuters notes.

What they're saying: "Don't count the consumer out of the fourth-quarter GDP story yet," economists at RDQ Economics, a New York-based consulting firm, wrote in a note to clients on Friday. RDQ estimates November's data will be revised higher and December's figures will show a "solid gain" in spending.

  • "We expect a modest rebound to spending in December," Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM U.S., wrote in a research note.
  • "For this reason, we will wait until we get that data to come to any conclusions about the condition of the consumer heading into 2020."

Yes, but: Retail sales — which came in at 0.2% in November, following October's upwardly revised 0.4% — have cooled considerably after rising by an average of 0.7% per month in the first eight months of this year, per Reuters.

  • Why it matters: The soft data comes at a time when consumer spending largely has largely acted as the U.S. economy's backbone as businesses delay investments.

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