Unstructured Finance

Check Out Line: More good news about rebounding consumers

SHOPPERS2Check out the latest encouraging news about U.S. shoppers dusting themselves off and shelling out their hard earned cash again.

U.S. consumers spent more in February than expected, despite buying fewer cars and being stuck at home shoveling record amounts of snow in many parts of the country.  The U.S. Commerce Department said on Friday that total retail sales rose 0.3 percent, from necessities to luxury items. Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales rose a bigger than expected 0.8 percent in February.

This comes on top of better than expected February sales reported last week at many top U.S. retail chains.

And more improvement is yet to come as U.S. consumers pay off debt and fix their collective balance sheets, freeing up more cash to go shopping, according to a Wall Street Journal report this morning.

Also in the basket:

Walmart cuts prices on staples in Western Canada

Ann Taylor posts surprise quarterly profit

New Orleans Saints Super Bowl win helps Hibbett

(Reuters photo)

Check Out Line: Warning! Murky outlook ahead for retailers

shop11Check out the latest outlook on October sales at U.S. retailers.

While most industry experts expect a 1.2 percent rise thanks to the weather gods and easy comparisons, the forecast doesn’t really say it all.

For instance, while sales trends have improved from a disastrous October 2008, data on the economy and consumer spending gives mixed signals and indicates shoppers remain cautious.

News of the U.S. economy returning to growth may have renewed some hopes of a revival in spending late last week, but the Commerce Department talked about consumer spending falling 0.5 percent in September.

Check Out Line: Are consumers spending?

Check out the latest, somewhat confusing, figures on consumer spending.ECONOMY-DOLLAR/PIZZA

The Commerce Department said U.S. consumer spending increased 0.2 percent in February, in line with market expectations, after rising 1 percent in January. That makes two straight months of gains.

However, after adjusting for inflation, consumer spending in February fell 0.2 percent.

The data also showed that incomes fell by 0.2 percent after January’s revised 0.2 percent rise. Analysts polled by Reuters had forecast incomes to fall 0.1 percent.

Check Out Line: Falling gas prices mean falling retail sales

USACheck out the fifth straight drop in U.S. retail sales.

The Commerce Department said total retail sales fell 1.8 percent in November to a seasonally adjusted $355.66 billion following a revised 2.9 percent plunge in October.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, sales were down 1.6 percent in November after a revised 2.4 percent October fall.

One reason for the decline (besides the struggling consumer) – gas prices.  Gasoline sales plummeted a record 14.7 percent after falling 12.9 percent in October, the data showed. Prices at the pump have fallen significantly and that is reflected in the retail sales report, which compiles total sales by gasoline stations.

Sorting through Black Friday data

Black Friday has come and gone but what on earth happened at the cash registers over the Thanksgiving weekend? The data is trickling in, and so are the early critiques. (See our previous blogs: Treat Black Friday reports cautiously and Black Friday data spurs more questions than answers)

Here is a break down of the latest reports and what data is still to come:

National Retail Federation:

According its 2008 Black Friday Weekend survey, conducted by BIGresearch and published on Sunday, the NRF said more than 172 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend (which includes Thursday, Friday, Saturday and projections for Sunday), up from 147 million shoppers last year. 

Shoppers spent an average of $372.57 this weekend, up 7.2 percent over last year’s $347.55. Total spending reached an estimated $41.0 billion, up from $34.6 billion a year ago.

Check Out Line: The short-lived tax rebate boost

sale.jpgCheck out the fading influence of tax rebate checks.

Tax rebate checks helped boost June retail sales but their influence appears to have petered out by July, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Wednesday.

The figures showed that total sales at U.S. retailers declined 0.1 percent in July, which was in line with forecasts made by Wall Street economists. A big reason for the drop was a fall off in auto sales. Auto and auto parts sales fell 2.4 percent in the month, their biggest drop since April, and were off a whopping 10.5 percent from year-ago levels. 

But excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.4 percent in July. That was roughly in line with forecasts, but down from a 0.9 percent rise in June. 

Check Out Line: Billions can’t rescue retail sales

shop.jpgCheck out all those billions of dollars in U.S. tax rebate checks failing to give June retail sales much of a boost.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday that total sales at U.S. retailers rose a less-than-expected 0.1 percent in June.  Economists polled by Reuters had forecast total retail sales to rise 0.4 percent in June, following a 0.8 percent gain in May.

Part of the weaker-than-expected results were due to falling demand for cars. Auto and auto parts sales fell 3.3 percent in June — their worst month since February 2006.  But even excluding autos, retail sales rose 0.8 in June, which was below the consensus estimate of 1.0 percent. Excluding autos, building supplies and gasoline, retail sales rose 0.4 percent in June.