US: Redbook

January 24, 2017 07:55 CST

Actual Previous
Store Sales Y/Y change 0.3% 0.3%

Same-store sales growth continued the glacial pace of the prior week and was up just 0.3 percent year-on-year in the January 21 week, a sharp deacceleration from the 2-percent plus growth seen in the final weeks of December. Versus December, month-to-date January sales were down 3.5 percent, more than twice the decline seen in January last year. Full month year-on-year sales were up just 0.5 percent, down from 1.5 percent in the last week of December and the slowest growth for this reading since early October. The sales growth slowdown in Redbook's sample continues to point to weakness in core retail sales for January.

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.