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Monday, July 16, 2012

Retail Sales Drop For Third Consecutive Month. Recession?

By Susan Duclos

Reuters reports that retail sales have dropped for the third straight month in a row which is the longest run of consecutive drops since 2008 when the U.S. was in the midst of a recession.

Sales slipped 0.5 percent, with declines across a wide swath of industries from electronics and cars to building supplies, the Commerce Department said on Monday. Analysts had expected a small increase.

That brings up the question of why analysts would believe there would be an increase. Recently news came out from the U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, who issued the "Full Report on Manufacturers’ Shipments, Inventories and Orders, April 2012, which showed that factory orders had fell across the board.

New orders for manufactured goods in April, down three of the last four months, decreased $2.9 billion or 0.6 percent to $466.0 billion, the U.S. Census Bureau reported today. This followed a 2.1 percent March decrease. Excluding transportation, new orders decreased 1.1 percent. Shipments, down following four consecutive monthly increases, decreased $1.5 billion or 0.3 percent to $473.2 billion. This followed a 0.1 percent March increase. Unfilled orders, down following twenty-seven consecutive monthly increases, decreased $0.8 billion or 0.1 percent to $985.4 billion. This followed a slight March increase. The unfilled orders-to-shipments ratio was 6.33, up from 6.29 in March. Inventories, up twenty-two of the last twenty-three months, increased $0.1 billion to $607.2 billion. This was at the highest level since the series was first published on a NAICS basis in 1992 and followed a 0.1 percent March increase. The inventories-to-shipments ratio was 1.28, unchanged from March. 

Reuters goes down the list, showing job creation has slowed, the Dollar declined against the Euro, confidence is flagging and American companies are scaling back plans to hire workers, the Commerce Department said sales of motor vehicles and parts dropped 0.6 percent last month, sales at electronics and appliance stores declined 0.8 percent,  and last but not least, while gas prices dropped a little, so far in July crude oil prices have risen again.

Bloomberg News also reiterates those points, yet they still call today's retail sale news "unexpected."

Will the U.S. slide  back into a recession? Has it already hit and no one wants to admit it?