Retail Sales Bounce Up Smartly – Real Or Illusory?

Quite a surprising retail sales number – up 0.8% from October to November and up 7.7% over November 2009.

Calculated Risk posted this interesting chart(you can click on all the charts to enlarge):

He observes that we are almost back to pre-recession levels.

But is everything really coming up roses? Jake at is playing the Grinch. First his chart:

His splash of cold water — don’t forget about inflation:

In dollar terms, 46% (yes almost 50% of the jump in nominal dollar terms) of the increase was on gasoline, 16% on clothing, and 13% on food. What we know for certain is that gas and food jumped in price in October and November (clothes jumped 1.2% in October… not sure about November, but we’ll know more with the CPI release later this week).

So are things improving? Absolutely, but this is not the “blow out” number it first seemed.

There is always someone out there who is going to remind you that the glass might not be entirely half-full. Still I think that you can take some encouragement from the numbers and Jake appears to be of the same mind.

But, let me leave you with a little quiz. Jake also posted a graph on the changes in credit usage. It’s a bit startling because it shows revolving consumer credit dropping like a rock.

So have consumers found religion and started paying for everything in cash or is there some statistical fluke here? I have no idea.

By the way, go to Jake’s site to take a look at this follow-up on credit usage. You’ll see the only consumer that seems to be borrowing are students.

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