US: Redbook

January 4, 2017 07:55 CST

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Store Sales Y/Y change 2.2% 2.1%

Same-store sales were up a strong 2.2 percent year-on-year in the December 31 final week of 2016, a 0.1 percentage point increase of the prior week's accelerating growth pace and the second strongest weekly reading of the year. Month-to-date sales versus the prior month also accelerated, rising 0.2 percentage points to 1.0 percent, the strongest showing since the last week in May. And full-month December sales were 1.5 percent higher year-on-year, the strongest monthly year-on-year growth since January. Redbook's sample shows a successful close of the year for retailers, who rang up the strongest year-on-year sales growth since January that accelerated throughout December, confirming rising consumer confidence measures and pointing to strong core sales in the December retail sales report. Note that the week's 2.2 percent year-on-year sales gain reflects a correction issued by Redbook this afternoon that corrects the 2.4 percent weekly increase it reported in its scheduled original release this morning.

A weekly measure of comparable store sales at chain stores, discounters, and department stores. Redbook tracks week-to-week change, month-to-date change, and year-on-year change with the latter the most closely watched reading. The report offers early indications on ex-auto ex-gas retail sales.

Consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy, so if you know what consumers are up to, you'll have a pretty good handle on where the economy is headed. Needless to say, that's a big advantage for investors.

The pattern in consumer spending is often the foremost influence on stock and bond markets. For stocks, strong economic growth translates to healthy corporate profits and higher stock prices. For bonds, the focus is whether economic growth goes overboard and leads to inflation. Ideally, the economy walks that fine line between strong growth and excessive (inflationary) growth. This balance was achieved through much of the nineties. For this reason alone, investors in the stock and bond markets enjoyed huge gains during the bull market of the 1990s. Spending at major retail chains did slow down in tandem with the equity market in 2000 and during the 2001 recession. Sales weakened again in 2008 due to the credit crunch and recession.

The Redbook is one of the more timely indicators of consumer spending, since it is reported every week. It gets extra attention around the holiday season when retailers make most of their profits. It is also a useful indicator when special factors can cause economic activity to momentarily slide. For instance, it was widely watched in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita which hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005 and again when Hurricanes Irene and Sandy hit the East Coast in 2011 and 2012.