William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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GO SPEND MORE – AT 8:26 A.M. ET:  Reports from retailers on Christmas shopping are not going to light any fires.  From AP, via Fox:

WASHINGTON – U.S. holiday retail sales this year were the weakest since 2008, when the nation was in a deep recession. In 2012, the shopping season was disrupted by bad weather and consumers' rising uncertainty about the economy.

Gee, that's not what the MSM told us during the election campaign, is it?  Weren't we having a strong recovery, guided by The One?  Maybe I read it wrong.

A report that tracks spending on popular holiday goods, the MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, said Tuesday that sales in the two months before Christmas increased 0.7 percent, compared with last year. Many analysts had expected holiday sales to grow 3 to 4 percent.

In 2008, sales declined by between 2 percent and 4 percent as the financial crisis that crested that fall dragged the economy into recession. Last year, by contrast, retail sales in November and December rose between 4 percent and 5 percent, according to ShopperTrak, a separate market research firm. A 4 percent increase is considered a healthy season.

Shoppers were buffeted this year by a string of events that made them less likely to spend: Superstorm Sandy and other bad weather, the distraction of the presidential election and grief about the massacre of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut. The numbers also show how Washington's current budget impasse is trickling down to Main Street and unsettling consumers. If Americans remain reluctant to spend, analysts say, economic growth could falter next year.

Oh please.  I really don't think Hurricane Sandy, which occurred in late October, impacted Christmas shopping.  Neither did the "distraction" of an election.  The AP is just doing its job – finding excuses for Dear Leader.

In the end, even steep last-minute discounts weren't enough to get people into stores, said Marshal Cohen, chief research analyst at the market research firm NPD Inc.

COMMENT:  Many people are frightened, or don't have much disposable income.  They'll have even less if Washington doesn't get its act together.  We are not doing well, and we're stuck with Obama once more.

December 26,  2012