Instead of the banner "retail sales climb for three consecutive months" it should of said "sales stall". For all the claims being made each month about consumers flooding back into stores, in reality sales are dead in the water. U.S. retail sales barely grew in January, they rose a seasonally adjusted 0.1% last month, or by 0.2% excluding the auto sector. Each month claims of huge growth are made, and when the numbers surface gains are minimal, and the market ignores it all.
Many economist see retail sales are a good proxy for
how fast the U.S. is growing, but economists look at longer-term
trends because the monthly data is volatile and subject to sharp
revisions. The increase in sales for December was unrevised at 0.5%,
while sales in November were revised up a notch to a 0.5% gain. In all
of 2012 retail sales climbed 4.4%, but the rate of consumer
inflation must be backed out of this number to reflect true growth, leaving not all that much to be excited about..
It is important we realize this was at a time that the government was stimulating the economy with well over a trillion dollars of unsustainable deficit spending, and at a time that the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world pumped and printed money into the system at artificially low interest rates. Banks, big business and the stock market have been the biggest beneficiaries of these policies, small business is on its back and has suffered because of this preference. Sales gains at retail chains were said to have expanded over 4.5%, that would imply a drop at small independent stores.
Footnote; Below you will find more on why the consumer will continue not to spend and is in a protracted period of weakness.