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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Misc: Solid Retail Sales, Rail Traffic increases, ECB, Protests

by Calculated Risk on 10/06/2011 03:40:00 PM

The first three stories are more evidence for sluggish growth in the U.S. economy. Also the ECB is offering more liquidity, and protests spread in the U.S.

• From MasterCard: SpendingPulse September 2011 U.S. Retail Sector Report: Momentum Continues With Strong Results in Most Sectors

... Most sectors reported positive year-over-year sales results, with particularly strong results in the Apparel, Hardware, and Department Store sectors.

According to Michael McNamara, VP of Research and Analysis for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, the results showed the continuing resilience of the U.S. consumer, even in the face of a lackluster labor environment and volatile financial markets. “The US consumer continues to spend across multiple sectors outside of the sectors tied to the housing market. This resilience in retail sales growth has been impressive in spite of disruptive weather, high gasoline prices and generally negative economic news,” he observed.

McNamara suggested that some of the boost in year-over-year results may be due to the aftermath of Hurricane Irene back in August, particularly in stores with a strong presence on the East Coast. The strong performance in Hardware may reflect some repair work, and September’s Apparel sales may have been boosted by delayed back-to-school shopping. Meanwhile, the poor housing market continues to be reflected in declines in Furniture, Furnishings, and Electronics and Appliances.
• From the WSJ: September Retail Sales Are Solid Ahead of Holiday Push
The 23 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters reported a 5.1% rise in stores open more than a year, or same-store sales. The figure beat expectations for 4.6% and compares with 2.7% growth last year.
• From the Association of American Railroads: AAR Reports Gains for September Rail Traffic
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today reported ... U.S. railroads originating 1,195,671 carloads, up 1.1 percent [from September 2010], and 949,606 trailers and containers, up 2.3 percent.
“Carloads have been closely tracking last year’s levels for six months, and intermodal continues to grow, though more moderately than earlier this year,” said AAR Senior Vice President John T. Gray. “Rail traffic is consistent with an economy that is probably still growing, but far more slowly than any of us would want.”
• From Reuters: ECB gears up crisis measures, tussles over rates
The European Central Bank reinstated some of its ... crisis-fighting tools on Thursday ... but opted to keep interest rates at 1.5 percent despite some of the bank's policymakers calling for cuts.
[Jean-Claude Trichet] said [the ECB] will offer struggling banks two new injections of ultra-cheap 1-year funding and buy another 40 billion euros ($54 billion) of 'covered bonds' -- assets backed by mortgage loans or public sector lending and perceived as safe to own.

"The economic outlook remains subject to particularly high uncertainty and intensified downside risks," Trichet told a news conference, offering a more gloomy prognosis than last month when he merely talked of downside risks.
• From Reuters: Wall St protests spread
Protests that began in New York against U.S. economic inequality spread around America on Thursday ...

Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told a group of business people in Fort Worth, Texas: "I am somewhat sympathetic - that will shock you."
The anger and frustration is understandable, and I'm definitely sympathetic. The economy needs to benefit everyone.

• And on the employment report tomorrow: Employment Situation Preview: Another Weak Report