Retail Sales in Nov, a quite disruptive month to say the least in terms of the dense, large economy of the Northeast, rose .3% headline and was flat ex auto’s vs expectations of up .5% and flat. However, after taking out the 4% drop in gasoline sales, sales were up .8% m/o/m after a .5% drop in Oct. The core rate of sales which take out gas, autos and building materials were up .5%, a touch better than the estimate of up .3%. On the hurricane, the census bureau said they were not able to isolate the effect but said they “did receive indications from co’s that the hurricane had both positive and negative effects on retail sales data. Some firms reported a drop in sales due to permanent or temporary store closures and stores having reduced business due to damage, fewer customers, and/or lack of employees. On the other hand, some firms reported sales increases due to significant sales of supplies for the affected areas and evacuees purchasing retail and food services in different geographic locales.” Bottom line, because of the hurricane, we may have to wait until the Dec retail sales data to get a more complete view of the state of consumer spending during the holiday season.
Separately, Initial Jobless Claims totaled 343k, well below expectations of 26k and down from 372k last week. It’s near the lowest since early ’08 but the Labor Dept is cautioning that the seasonal adjustments are more difficult this time of the year because of planned layoffs that some industries have. Continuing Claims fell by 23k while Extended Benefits rose a large 188k as we approach the expiration of many extended benefits. Bottom line, I’d like to say how bullish the Claims # is with the large drop but the Labor Dept seems to want us to average out the upcoming weeks into yr end to get a more clear trend with a smoothing of the seasonals.