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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Fiscal Cliff Fantasies # 2134: Retail Sales Were Up 0.5 Percent in December

Fiscal Cliff Fantasies # 2134: Retail Sales Were Up 0.5 Percent in December

Wednesday, 16 January 2013 08:00

For some reason it was hard to find news about December retail sales in the papers. The Census Department reported they were up a healthy 0.5 percent. Remember all those stories from worried economists that told us how the fiscal cliff was already taking a toll. They told us about plunging confidence levels and consumers who were putting off purchases because of uncertainty about the resolution of the standoff. 

Yes, some of us did ridicule the cliff mongers at the time. Consumers are used to the boys and girls in Washington getting silly. They will adjust their spending when they actually feel the impact in their paycheck.

Anyhow, some of us were right. Get out a heaping helping of ridicule for everyone else.

Comments (5)Add Comment
written by JSeydl, January 16, 2013 10:12
Revealed preferences > Stated preferences

written by PeonInChief, January 16, 2013 10:16
There was a lot of stuff that wasn't moving, but that's because it was junk. The good toys--I hear from parents--were gone very early, and some electronics did well even though there weren't any "hot" items this year.

I was really irritated by the poor quality of the merchandise this year--I wouldn't even buy it when it went on sale.
written by Chris Engel, January 16, 2013 1:31
I'm sure they would have been higher if all the stuff wasn't going on.

I'm not saying that to be pedantic, but millions of Americans had a credible threat of not getting income expected for the month of January, that's bound to have serious practical consequences for a lot of people in December who were uncertain.

But it's clear that the retail sales numbers blew away the forecast, which according to Forex Factory was 0.2%. That's a pretty solid blow-out number in Wall Street terms...
written by Chris Engel, January 16, 2013 1:37
Actually if you look closer at the data:


(this site is actually really good for looking at forecasts/actual data for all kinds of economic indicators and it's free/no account needed)

It shows that last month's number was also adjusted upward! So good news there.

but still, that's pitiful in absolute terms, we should be way higher if we had ngdp targeting/higher inflation, anything but this messy liquidity trap.
written by watermelonpunch, January 17, 2013 3:26
Well I said that was just stupid at the time.
Consumer "malaise", my asparadise!

Wall Street people seem to think that average citizens behave like stock traders or something, buying goods & services out of "confidence", because they like the odds.

Shows just how detached they are from realities of the citizenry at large.

Average people (ie: the bulk of the population), buy what WE need, IF we can; and we buy what WE can afford out of a prioritized list of what we want. Period.

And since this seems to be one of the few pages on this web site that doesn't mention it... ;)

I'm going to say it.

It's all about healthcare!

If retail sales are suffering at all, it has nothing to do with the nation's debt.

It has to do with the fact that if someone's clipping coupons, & foregoing new tires in the dead of winter, in order to pay necessary for life medical expenses, one is not going to be buying an iPad, or a new Playstation game, or anything else, for xmas, or anything other occasion.

So-called experts can't seem to see the forest for the trees.
They also not seem to comprehend basic math in reality.

It doesn't matter how much I like penny candy... If I don't have a penny, I'm not going to buy a piece.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.