Retail Sales See October Surprise

U.S. retail sales saw an unexpectedly pleasant 1.2 percent upward bounce in October compared with September, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Compared with October 2009, retail sales were 7.3 percent higher last month.

November 16, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user quaziefoto

U.S. retail sales saw an unexpectedly pleasant 1.2 percent upward bounce in October compared with September, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Compared with October 2009, retail sales were 7.3 percent higher last month.

Auto and other motor vehicle dealers had a particularly good month, with sales up 5 percent from September and up 14.7 percent from October 2009. Most other retail sectors saw positive but tepid month-over-month sales growth, such as sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores (up 1 percent) and building supply and garden equipment stores (up 1.9 percent).

Every category of retailer but one, as defined by the Census Bureau, saw more sales in October 2010 than October 2009. The lone exception was the department store segment, which edged down 2.2 percent year-over-year. The biggest year-over-year winner among retail sectors were car dealers, with the aforementioned 14.7 percent sales increase. Also doing well compared with last year are building materials and garden supplies (up 12.2 percent) and non-store retailers (up 13.5 percent).

Economists Sour on Prospects for ’11 and ’12

On Monday the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released its fourth-quarter Survey of Professional Forecasters–economists, in other words, not psychics–and they are a grumpy lot indeed. Every major measure of the U.S. economy, according to the 43 economists surveyed, will be weak in 2011.

Collectively, the economists are predicting 2.2 percent growth for 4Q10, and not much better during each quarter of 2011 and even 2012. The growth will not, in their estimation, be enough to make a serious dent in unemployment–9.3 percent is forecast for 2011 and 8.7 percent for ’12.

The only optimistic forecast made by the economists involves their contention that things won’t get worse. Not many of them think there will be a double-dip; they see only an “11 percent chance” of an upcoming negative quarter. They don’t think the U.S. economy will be sucked into a whirlpool of deflation, either.

Bankers, AGs to Talk to Congress About Foreclosure Mess

Tuesday might be a lively one for the Senate Banking Committee, which will hear testimony from Bank of America home loans president Barbara Desoer and JPMorgan Chase home lending CEO David Lowman about the notorious state of foreclosure documentation. The committee will also hear from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, the head AG of the 50-state Mortgage Foreclosure Multistate Group, which is investigating foreclosure malpractice.

Wall Street had a non-eventful mixed day on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining a scant 9.39 points, or 0.08 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq lost 0.12 percent and 0.17 percent, respectively.